Quote of the week

“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you're not, pretend you are.” – Muhammad Ali

Ask Thabane Sutu

Thabane Sutu is an icon of Lesotho football. In his illustrious career he played as a goalkeeper and captained Lesotho’s national team, Likuena, from 1994 to 1997. He starred for local giants Arsenal in two spells between 1984 and 1998, winning three league titles. Sutu also played for Africa’s most successful club side Al Ahly of Egypt with whom he won the African Cup Winners Cup in 1993 and three league championships.

He is currently based in America where he has been a youth coach at United 1996 Futbol Club since in 2001. In 2006 Sutu was the recipient of the Coach of the Year award in the state of Kentucky, and in 2009 his youth team won the Kentucky state championship. He answers your questions…

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

With the English Premiership season winding down we ask Thabane Sutu about the season that Liverpool have had and, of course, the title race.

Liverpool's Carling Cup win means qualification for the Europa League; even so personally this season has been a disappointment, particularly in league games. Too many dropped points have been at home... I believe Liverpool have tied eight games, majority of those against teams they should be beating.

Blackburn, Swansea and Norwich for example all got away with something from Anfield.
Part of the problem is that Liverpool’s squad is too mediocre and average, with the exception of Suarez, Gerrard, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique, Reina and Kuyt. Few of Liverpool’s summer signings have made an impact.

Charlie Adam is an oxygen thief, Downing flatters to deceive, Andy Carroll is a total flop, an expensive one for that matter, and Jordan Henderson is a ghost!

Jose Enrique has been solid, and Bellamy has been Liverpool’s best signing by far.

Henderson is only 20 years, so maybe he will improve with time. That said, I’ve watched him several times this season and I still can't describe what his best attribute as a footballer is. Kenny Dalglish bought a lot of British players, and that's fine provided they are good enough to play for Liverpool.

Charlie Adam has been a total failure. A club of Liverpool’s stature shouldn’t be getting players from relegated teams like Blackpool. Ian Holloway (Blackpool’s manager) once compared Adam to Xabi Alonso! Are you kidding me? There's no comparison there; I am convinced Alonso’s departure led to subsequent departures of Mascherano and Torres.

Admittedly, Liverpool have been unlucky at times. They've hit the woodwork more than 21 times this season. They’ve lost a couple on the bounce – they shouldn't have lost to Arsenal, but that's what happens when you don't kill teams off, especially with RVP on the field.

Manchester United have edged ahead! No surprises there! I thought Man City was going to run away with it! But the loss of Yaya Toure to the Afcon was a major blow! They didn’t look the same team without him. Paul Scholes’ return has galvanised United, he is a brilliant player. He was never pacy, so he didn’t have any speed to lose to begin with. That's why he is still a top player at 37! I am not a Man United fan, never will be, but I've always liked him!


Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Good afternoon Ntate Sutu, seeing the release of the fixtures list for the 2011/12 English Premiership season really whet my appetitive. I know it’s still really early but what do you make of the coming title race? And what are your thoughts on Arsenal?

I still think Manchester United will win the league again.

Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool will make the top four too. Arsenal haven’t strengthened yet and to compound matters they’re in real danger of losing their best players, Fabregas and Nasri, as well. Clichy is already gone, but luckily they do have Kieran Gibbs who is just as good.

Ferguson is way too experienced and he knows exactly what he needs to do to keep his team going. He has sold John O’Shea and Wes Brown to Sunderland. In came Phil Jones and Chris Smalling had a decent start to his Old Trafford career. So defensively United are set.

They just need to replace Paul Scholes. Not easy! He was arguably the best midfielder in England, and possibly Europe, for the past 15 years or so. A great player!

I like Liverpool’s chances of breaking into the top four. They have signed shrewdly... even if the money they paid for Jordan Henderson is a little exorbitant. Charlie Adam will prove to be a major signing for them. He will play with better players and will see the ball a lot more than he did at Blackpool. His delivery from set pieces is top drawer; Liverpool didn’t score too many goals from set pieces last year, so Adam’s addition is already a major plus in that sense. Also, he is left-footed and he provides Liverpool better balance in the middle.

For Arsenal Vermaelen will be back at the heart of defence... I think they missed him badly last season. Samba and Cahill have also been talked about as possible signings but they don’t fit the Arsenal profile... they’re both very good defenders but not Wenger’s type.

Wenger prefers ball playing defenders, not rough and robust ones like Samba for instance.

Unfortunately you need a bit of both worlds for an effective centre-back partnership. Man United have Ferdinand who is good on the ball and Vidic who isn’t necessarily great technically, but is a terrific defender who sticks to the principles very well. It’s a good combination. I think Arsenal’s defensive pairing of Kolo Toure and Sol Campbell was the best they’ve had in a while. They need something like that if they’re to be successful again.


Saturday, 25 June 2011      

The 2011 Gold Cup final, the biggest event on the North American football, or should we say soccer, calendar takes place later today. Hosts America face defending champions Mexico at the Rose Bowl, the scene of Brazil’s 1994 World Cup win and the 1999 Women’s World Cup final. It’s the third time in a row the two foes have met in the final and Thabane Sutu does what he does best, giving us the lowdown on the finale… oh, and a Liverpool question is inevitably thrown in there somewhere...

The Gold Cup Final: USA or Mexico?

The US and Mexico are eternal rivals and anything can happen in this kind of encounter. However, based on current form, I would pick Mexico to win. They have a much more balanced side than the US. In Rafa Marquez Mexico also have a veteran of three Fifa World Cups and he provides a calming influence to a somewhat young Mexican side. Mexico looked really fit in their semi-final win over Honduras... they outlasted their opponents and scored two overtime goals through De Nigris and Chicharito. Hernandez is one of the best natural finishers I’ve seen in a long time. He just has that knack of being in the right place at the right time. I think Goodson and Bocanegra are going to have a hard time keeping up with him.

Guardado on the left wing and Barrera on the opposite flank are also going to be a handful for the US defence, and don’t forget about Dos Santos breaking from midfield. De Nigris provides a different alternative to Hernandez... he is strongly built, great in the air and a little scrappy. He usually comes off the bench and he’s a perfect foil for Hernandez.

The US have some talent of their own too – Howard in goal, Bradley and Jones in midfield, and Donovan and Dempsey up front. Freddie Adu and Agudelo have also been particularly effective off the bench as well. But if I were to pick a winner for tonights final I would go with Mexico.

Is Stuart Downing the piece to Liverpool’s championship Jigsaw?

With Ashley Young Man United bound, Downing is an option for sure. He can definitely help. If Carroll is going to thrive at Liverpool then signing genuine wingers is paramount. Liverpool need a leftback too. I’ve heard that they may get Cristian Zapata from Udinese. He is good. Plays for Colombia. But Udinese is playing Champions League football next season and I don’t think he’ll let that opportunity pass him by.

I think Liverpool also need another forward to compliment Suarez and Carroll. Ngog cannot withstand the rigors of the Premiership... he is physically too weak and the moment he’s average at best. He’s still young though so maybe sending him out on loan to a Championship team may do him good. Dani Pacheco is an interesting player for me, and a much better option than Ngog. He helped Norwich gain promotion and I hope Liverpool keep him and give more opportunities.

When it comes to winning the league, I don’t think Liverpool can do so, but they will qualify for the top four. They have a difficult start at home to Sunderland and then away to Arsenal.
You also have factor in the international matches played on the Wednesday a few days before the league starts. I don’t understand why national teams have friendly games on a Wednesday when the league season begins on Saturday. I would have thought the opening day would have been moved back to Sunday at least. But in any case, Liverpool cannot afford any slip ups like they did last season; they need to hit the ground running.


Saturday, 28 May 2011

English champions Manchester United play Spanish kings Barcelona later today in the most highly anticipated Uefa Champions League final since the turn of the century. Likuena legend Thabane Sutu is always a good person to turn to on occasions like this… a question just needed to be asked and he answered it, short and sweet…

Lumela Ntate Sutu!

What’s your take on the Uefa Champions League final? How do you see the game going? And which players do you think will have the most influence on the outcome of the game? Thanks.

I will go for Barcelona. I think they are a far better side than they were when they won in it 2009. However, the final is in England this time and that will make the contest somehow more interesting. Rooney, Carrick, Hernandez, Vidic, Park and maybe Giggs, if he starts, are the key players for United. For Barcelona it will be the usual suspects… Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Puyol, Dani Alves and so on. I think Valdes too will have a major role to play. He doesn’t have to do much because Barca dominate possession so much, so his concentration levels have got to be spot on – especially in such a high stakes contest.

With Barca you pick your own poison, if you low-press, they will break you down with combinations. If you press high, they can be absolutely devastating on the counter. Furthermore, Messi and Iniesta are completely healthy and more importantly, fresh. They both didn’t play in the last two games as Barca wrapped up the league nice and early.

All in all, I think Barcelona will win today, but it won’t be easy. Man United, especially in central defence, are too slow; and Barca will keep the ball on the deck and probe until an opening presents itself. Vidic and Ferdinand are both wonderful in the air but that’s not how Barcelona plays.


Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Good afternoon Ntate Sutu,

I watched Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Manchester United last Sunday. I was very impressed! I haven’t seen Liverpool play so well in a very long time! What’s your take on my beloved Liverpool? Are you excited about the arrival of King Kenny, the new signings and new style of play? I know I am…

I think Liverpool should have appointed Kenny right after Rafael Benitez left. No disrespect to Roy Hodgson, I think Liverpool was too big for him. He is better suited to managing small clubs whose sole ambition is to stay in the Premiership... Fulham and now West Brom. And his style of play was too rigid!

He wanted certain players to receive to the ball in prescribed areas of the pitch. Kenny came in and has given players more freedom to express themselves… the passing and movement has gotten better, Meireles has suddenly exploded and scored 5 goals in his last 7 games. Kenny has also shown faith in young players like Martin Kelly, Jay Spearing and Jonjo Shelvy. Sunday’s win against Manchester United was definitely the highlight of the season.

I think Suarez is a shrewd piece of business. He is not match fit yet and I think the best of him is yet to come. He is obviously a different kind of player to Torres...Suarez is more mobile, has got great feet especially in tight spaces and he’s a fighter! I like him a lot.

Of course Liverpool also played on Man United’s weaknesses... the absence of Ferdinand and Vidic in particular was massive. And I still don't understand why Darren Fletcher didn’t start. Carrick and Scholes have a similar style of play. Fletcher covers a lot of ground. I don’t think any of Man United’s central midfielders made runs beyond Rooney and Berbatov, particularly in the first half. Losing Nani was a major blow too. Carragher should have seen red. So too Rafael.

I still think Liverpool need 5 or 6 players in the summer. Carroll’s main asset is heading and Liverpool don’t have genuine wingers. They need to address that area. They could also do with a leftback. Johnson has been playing there lately and has done well. But he’s a rightback. Also one central defender! Daniel Agger is great when fit, but he misses way too many games with injuries. Soto Kyrgiakos and Skrtel are garbage... bad things always happen when they play together. Hernandez nicked one goal and Soto was marking him on the wrong side. And the distance between him and Skrtel was almost 15-20 metres apart! Schoolboys don’t make mistakes like that!


(To hear from Thabane Sutu send your questions to molaposportscentre@gmail.com)