2016 – my crystal ball!

I do this every year. I take a look into my crystal ball to see what the future holds. I leave it to all those that have been following to draw their conclusions how ell I have fared personal though I consider myself an oracle by my degree of success.

So, welcome to 2016.
I am supremely confident that 2016 holds great promise for sports around the world particularly in the aftermath of the earth-shaking scandals that rocked Track and Field athletics (doping) and football (money and power).

For administrators in the IAAF and FIFA the past year could not have been darker or longer. Nothing could have prepared them for the monumental scandals that both organisations had to contend with in 2015. What is clear to me as I peer into my crystal ball first day into 2016 is that the disappointments of 2015 will morph into blessings in 2016. Both organisations will never be the same again, for good!

Sir, Seb Coe the newly elected President of the IAAF, has pledged that the issue of doping that has threatened the credibility of track and field sports and could destroy the very foundation of the Olympic movement will be dealt with decisively and transparently by his administration.

IN FIFA, the organization has been so badly wracked by scandals of unprecedented dimension that the reforms and elections coming up in February 2016 to elect a new president of the organization, will ensure that things never return to the dark days of 2015 again. Although, no one knows for sure how the final drama of the elections will play out my crystal ball shows clearly that even as Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini are still fighting the battles of their lives to restore their reputations, both gentlemen are nowhere on the radar in 2016. Effectively, they have come to the end of the road as far as their leadership and ambitions in FIFA from 2016 are concerned.

For us in Africa, 2015 held one very pleasant surprise. One of our own, Issa Hayatou, through the intervention of fate, has indirectly fulfilled our ambition to have a Black man as president of FIFA even if on an interim basis.

Beyond that, my crystal ball does not show the man anywhere on the radar screen of 2016. That means that Issa will not return as CAF President. He should therefore not tempt fate and the elements by attempting to contest after what happened to Blatter and Platini.

He should enjoy this unearned grace by the elements, and leave a positive legacy of some sort for African football by extending the coming reforms in FIFA to CAF.

He should immediately start the process of removing the obnoxious articles he engineered to be ‘inserted’ into the CAF statutes in order to ensure that he adds 4 years to his present 28 at the head of the African football body.

Haba, what is he still looking for? Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, as we have seen so clearly in the case of Blatter and co. That Issa has managed to stay clear of all the splashing murk in FIFA in 2015 is fate’s best gift to him in 2016. He should grab the opportunity with both hands, run now end up on a positive note in the annals of football. Otherwise, his fall would make that of Sepp Blatter look like child’s play!

Issa should ensure that the anticipated reforms that will be introduced to sanitize FIFA should be made to percolate down to all the continental confederations and national federations/associations.

The introduction of term tenures for the leadership of football bodies must be the first major step in the reforms. No president of any of the bodies in sports should do more than two terms in office and must not superintend over the elections that would bring in his successor.

Now let me look beyond the politics of sports and delve into technical matters as I peer further into my crowded crystal ball to see what 2016 holds in prospect.

Let me start, of course, with my favourite team in the world, FC Barcelona.

I can clearly see the current best team in the world still looking incandescent in 2016. There are several trophies in their kitty again, almost a repeat of their feat of 2015 – a rich chest of the highest trophies in club football in Spain, in Europe and the world.

I can see him also. The talisman of Barca, Lionel Messi, is amongst the finalists again at the event to determine the world’s best player in 2016. I can’t see beyond that, though.

If he remains healthy and free of any serious injuries Messi would probably still be in serious contention for the award again.

His place is already secure in history in my humble reckoning as the most exciting and one of the best football players the world has ever seen.

Neymar, fast maturing into a more formidable player, will give Messi a run for his money in 2016. His confidence level is rising rapidly and he seems to be coming into his own, playing more confidently and enjoying it thoroughly.

He still has a little bit more to do to become the complete package, so, he will not win the Ballon D’or this January. But by the 2016 edition I see his faint outlines as a likely person that would end the decade-long reign of Messi and Ronaldo.

A comment. The biggest threat to Neymar’s ascendancy is Neymar himself – the risks he takes in the manner he plays. He taunts opposing defenders and invites tackles to himself by holding on for too long to the ball. He further infuriates defenders with clever dribbles and some humiliating showboating. These are tailor-made invitations to injuries that could truncate his chances of emerging the world’s best player at the end of the 2016 football season.

As far as Cristiano Ronaldo is considered he is already in a steady slide down the slope of the best in the world. Even the best-oiled machines eventually start to stutter from wear and tear. That’s Ronaldo, the razor sharp edge is getting blunted.

The EPL remains the most exciting league in the world yet it does not boast the best football. At the close of 2015 the EPL had become a contest of coaches. The coaches started to draw as much attention, even not greater, than the players themselves. The league came alive with total unpredictability of matches and very shocking results.

I am peering into the crystal ball again. I see Chelsea and Manchester United continue to stumble and struggle; Leicester City continue to advertise the best of typical English football by putting up a brave fight all the way to the end but failing to change the tradition that the Premiership is a monopoly of a only a few clubs to deep purses!

Arsenal FC are undoubtedly the most impressive of the teams this season, so far, but they still look occasionally brittle, vulnerable and inconsistent. A champion team needs to be consistent to last the distance.

Manchester City look richer in players, and quite capable but hurt by injuries have also been rather inconsistent.

Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspurs will provide real tests and the results they post with the two teams most likely to win the league, will be a determinant factor in the end.

But what exactly does my crystal ball reveal?

I will not spoil the fun for punters. But permit me to reduce it to a choice between Manchester City and Arsenal.

I see a few other things.

Serena Williams will win only one grand slam tournament in 2016; Djokovic will not be as dominant as he was in 2015; Nadal, my favourite tennis player will continue his slump; sprinter Usain Bolt will retain his titles in Rio; Nigeria will return from Rio without a Gold medal again.

Talking about Nigeria, unfortunately, I see a brewing crisis in Nigerian football administration.
On the political scene I see a bright daylight beyond the dark tunnel of 2015.

I wish every one a happy New Year again.

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