Musa Okwonga


Poet, journalist, musician. Musa can be seen writing for ESPN, The Economist and more
  • The Frank Lampard Paradox

    Years after his retirement, I still can’t work out just how good Frank Lampard actually was. Don’t get me wrong - I know he was superb. It’s just that, given the way he is so often described, I think he is greatly underrated. I say this because when Lampard is discussed, it is frequently said that he was not naturally talented, and that he made the best of limited ability. This analysis always confuses me, because Lampard so often did things that did not seem to be the result of hours of practise or inspired coaching. Lampard had vision; he had imagination. But we’ll get to those in a moment. ...

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  • Sergio Busquets: Barcelona’s Raccoon

    The video was posted on YouTube in November 2012; it showed a raccoon edging its way into a yard full of cats, then plunging its paws into their feeding-bowl and scurrying off on its hind legs. Of course, this hilarious scene went viral, to the extent that it was still being shared years later; and, when I finally saw it, I thought only one thing. “That looks like Sergio Busquets.” ...

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  • John Barnes Ruined My Shoes

    John Barnes ruined my shoes. Several pairs of them. In his defence, I don’t know if he knows that he did. And I’m not sure if he would be very keen if a football writer fast approaching his forties turned up at one of his speaking engagements and presented him with a bill. But the truth remains; when he was at Liverpool, and when I was still about nine years old, John Barnes ruined my shoes, time and again. ...

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  • Rivaldo: Santa Disguised As Scrooge

    How good was Rivaldo, when ranked among the game’s greatest? Well, for example, you could argue that he, and not Ronaldo, was the crucial player in Brazil’s triumph at the World Cup in 2002. Sure, Ronaldo scored both goals in that final, but it was his strike partner who is credited with both assists - the first with a low drive that Oliver Kahn could only parry to the onrushing predator, and the second with a dummy from which Germany’s poor defenders probably still have sore necks. Looking further back through that tournament, Rivaldo’s hand is a clear part of so much of the action. Though Ronaldo netted the winner in the semi against Turkey, it is Rivaldo who set the tone with two or three excellent strikes from distance. Rivaldo delivered the vital equaliser in the quarter-final against England, easing the ball home just before half-time. In the Round of 16, with Belgium proving ominously resilient, Rivaldo fired a deflected shot into the top corner, breaking the Europeans’ resistance. ...

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  • Michael Essien, The King Despite Injury

    Some footballers are just unlucky - for them, it’s just a question of timing. If Michael Ballack had been born a handful of years later, he might have been at the core of Germany’s Golden Generation, who ended up sweeping the world before them. Then there’s the other form of misfortune, which is injury - and which has cheated Michael Essien more than most. As a Manchester United fan, Chelsea’s signing of Essien filled me with fear. Every now and then, a player comes on the market who is so good that the team they eventually choose will be dominant for the next few years. That’s how it was with Roy Keane, with David Silva; and, for a while, that’s how it felt with Essien. The Ghana midfielder was unstoppable in every category. It was rare enough to have a footballer with a blend of vision, technique and power - but in just one midfield, Chelsea had two of them, Essien joining up with Frank Lampard in as imposing a partnership as the Premier League has seen. ...

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