The real-life tales of a football writer
At three o’clock on Wednesday morning, the Manchester La Fianna striker ‘Dinho’ will start a long journey from Barcelona, via Amsterdam, to Cape Town.
On Friday, he’ll begin a three-week trial with Ajax Cape Town of the South African first division, the PSL. They were formed in 1999 after the amalgamation of two Cape Town teams – Seven Stars and Cape Town Spurs - as Ajax Amsterdam sort to expand their worldwide network of feeder clubs.
Benni McCarthy had played for Seven Stars before he moved to Amsterdam. Everton’s Stephen Pienaar was with Ajax Cape Town, as was John Obi Mikel when he won recognition and a clutch of big name suitors playing in the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship. So he signed for a Norwegian team…
Dinho played his final game for Manchester La Fianna on Saturday, as we came from 2-1 down against West Ham (of Barcelona) to win 5-2. We were trailing as late as the 74th minute, before Dinho et al helped strike four quick goals.
La Fianna: top of the league after beating West Ham 5-2
The win, combined with a defeat for top of the table ‘Strollers’, lifted us back to the top with five league games to play. We meet Strollers this Saturday.
After the game, when the man-of-the-match had drunk his prize of a neat whisky and another a straight Martini; after we’d heard the West Ham players - 90% of whom are not British - singing ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’, Dinho thanked us for giving him the opportunity to play and said he hoped we could follow him to a professional club.
I’m 34 and have never been close to being paid a tenner a week to play part-time, so he wasn’t aiming that one at me. Indeed, he might not have even been speaking to me at all if I’d followed the advice given three weeks ago.
I found Dinho hard work. Seven other players complained about him to me. Seven. Surly, argumentative or maybe just misunderstood and immature, he stormed into the showers after one game and said that he wouldn’t play for us again. Heat of the moment? Yes. Frustration at playing with less talented mortals? Definitely.
Out of interest, I sort advice from a variety of football people: a former Premiership manager, the assistant manager of a North West Counties team, a former European Cup winner and a Dutchman who scores lots of goals wherever he plays, be it in Manchester or Madrid.
I was going to ask Samuel Eto’o, but that would have been like seeking Mohammed Al Fayed for a rational breakdown of the events leading up to Diana and Dodi’s death.
Dinho: Cape Town-bound for three-week trial
Those I did ask were unanimous: get rid of him. The comment from one of: “At your level you play to enjoy it, he’ll spoil it for everyone” summed up the responses.
I’m not sure why I didn’t get rid of Dinho. He was a good player who could make a difference, but we had plenty of other players who fitted that criteria. Maybe it was because two of the other players had a strong word and told him that unless he improved his attitude, then he wouldn’t have a chance of realising his dream, that of being a professional footballer.
It worked. Dinho’s been far more positive in recent weeks, a joy to have in the team. And now he has a chance to show his undoubted talent, strength and pace at a higher, more disciplined, level.
Good luck, big man.
He'll never make it, and the seven were absolutely right, but your goalie is an even bigger knob.
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