Zee's Notes: Soccer is another team sport that promises to be closely contested in Nairobi. With Euro 2008 well underway - though it is sad not to have England there - it will be a much talked about competition. Soccer, like cricket to an extent, is in our blood. In Africa we played the game in the streets, the parks and in the alleys - as long as there were more than 2 guys and a ball it was Game On. So let's consider the teams:
Canada: Coached by Amyn Bhulji, one of Tanzania's soccer legends, this team is led by some wily veterans who should provide experience and leadership. Elnur (X) Ladha, who captained the University of BC in his days there, and Karim Shivji will balance the enthusiasm of the youngsters and solidify the midfield for the Canada squad. Soccer in North America is a huge participation sport until the age of 16 - then it tails off with only the most serious continuing at higher league or college levels.
England/Portugal: With soccer being such a huge sport in the 2 nations you can't help but think that they will be the squads to watch. If they have first generation players who have played in the school leagues then watch out - they will be the team to beat. I remember in the early 1980's we had a London team visit Vancouver and the games were dynamite and the skill level of the Londoners was quite impressive - expect the same in Nairobi.
Tanzania/Kenya/Uganda: I also think the East African countries will compete well - with the home advantage - though I'm not sure if there is a pool of youngsters to draw from like the days of yesteryear when Soccer was 'The Game'.
USA : Again, like in any other sport, you can never consider the US out of any competition and they may surprise some of the favorites. Keep an eye out for these guys. Remember when we talk of the US it also includes Australia/new Zealand/Papua New Guinea.
Afghanistan/Tajikistan: No word yet if these countries will field teams in Soccer. But if they do it will be a treat to watch as the boys play with passion and play to win. I say this because during the Canadian games the Montreal squad - with many Afghani players - delighted the crowds with their attacking game and with a lucky bounce here or there may well have taken the trophy.
I hope to catch some of the Soccer matches as they always provide some memorable sporting moments - particularly in Ismaili tournaments.