Saturday, February 5, 2022

CAN 2021--Goodbyes and Championship Pick

Dearest Friends,

The time to bid adieu is once again upon us. Misty-eyed time. There's all the more reason to succumb to emotion whilst wrapping up this chapter.

As revealed this past summer, this particular tournament shall serve as the penultimate chapter in the now 20-year-journey that was our syndicate. Two decades of "Friends & Football" draw to a close. 

Given how fickle the interests of our semi-evolved-simian brains can be, it counts as a legitimate miracle that we've managed to keep it going for so long. Those who know the bookie well can attest to the fact that (beyond "Friends & Football), his primary obsession in life remains "focus". 

The art of losing oneself in a task stands as the only true way of suppressing the harsher and more austere aspects of consciousness. All humans have their way of coping with the world. The bookie was never much one for meditation or yoga. Prayer is easily the most useless mechanism we humans have invented. 

Talking to oneself does nothing. It's pretty pathetic in point of fact.

As Kurt Vonnegut once put it, "reading and writing are the only true forms of meditation there are". German football coaching legend Christian Streich often notes that those two acts happen to be "the only means of entering an alternate space".

Since we're pulling out the quotes, we might as well address the sometimes brutally uncompromising personal style in which the syndicate has been written with a bit of James Baldwin. The trailblazing American author repeatedly emphasized that "One thinks that one's pain and heartache is unprecedented in the history of the world...and then one reads....and then one writes."

Well put, "Baldie" 😉

Another reason that the bookie kept the syndicate going for so long concerns the fact that there was always an -M (and possibly some -Fs) that found themselves in some sort of critical personal distress and turmoil. When it came time to reconnect with members in the lead-up to the tournament, the bookie invariably found someone desperately in need of the healing salve that is international football. 

Rest assured that, even if these pages are going away, your friendly bookie will always be available for you come tournament time. We can still share in the all the splendor of the global game, relishing the colors, marveling in the beauty, and (of course) picking out the kits for the post-tournament "Schwag Packs". 

No matter how bad things might seem, hang in there. A major football international is always right around the corner. The World Cup. The Women's World Cup and Euros. All the continental championships. We get Africa every two years! That last fact seems to have been lost on FIFA President Giovanni Infantino when he invoked the African Emigre Crisis to argue for the cash that a biennial World Cup would bring.

Idiot! Africa doesn't need a World Cup every two years!

All of us already have AFCON, you dope!

We also have Enoch Mankayi Sontonga.

Even a hardcore atheist such as this one can't resist Santonga's "God Bless Africa" hymn. I'll proudly sing it in Xhosa "Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika" or Kiswahili "Mungu ibariki Afrika". Bring it on in Zulu, Sesotho, Shona, or Ndebele!

Okay. I'll also proudly belt it out in English. There may be no God, no Creator, no horseshit "Holy Spirit", or anything else looking out for us in this random, fragile, and wholly unfair thing known as existence. We still have the ability to create and share our passion-fueled creations with others. 

As always, I love you friends. Until the time comes for us to convene one last time this Summer, feel free to reach out anytime. As the world opens back up and we all crawl out of our hovels to live amidst an "endemic level" virus, I wish you strength and courage through all of life's travails. 

We shall always have football. Long live football!


Supreme Champion of the African Football Universe:

Senegal vs. Egypt 


All bets are off for the Final. Those -Ms still hoping to get a wager in can still check in with a bet on the third-place-playoff. Bookie tips hosts Cameroon to salvage some pride with a plus-one over Burkina Faso. As to the question of who will hoist the grand trophy....

It's a fairly straightforward pick. The Lions of Teranga appear to be peaking at precisely the right time. Egypt, by contrast, are coming off three consecutive 120-minute matches and looked very limp against Cameroon during open play in the last match. 

Looks as if we'll get still more mileage out of that famous Aliou CissĂ© photo from the 2018 World Cup. We conclude just as we did when covering this competition's last edition back in the Summer of 2019. The same pick. The same entreaty. This time the trophy should return to the sub-Saharan portion of the continent. 

 Take us home, good sir. 

Take us all home...

THE PICK: Senegal +1 Goal


Enjoy living your life. Enjoy it for its own sake. Dance to the music. Appreciate the painting. Delve deeper into that novel. Make laughter and love as often as you can. Live lionhearted or don’t bother living at all.


We’ll meet again. The Syndicate will return. For the time being……


“Go kick a ball with a stranger”


Seriously…go kick a ball with a stranger.  


--S.S. P.J.W.  

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

CAN 2021--Semi-finals

Servus Syndicate Members,

An interesting piece of mail trickled in from 23-M; one contained a legitimate query for the bookie. 

Where was the coverage of stadium crush last time? 

Fair enough. Perhaps it was unfair to lead with the story of a military coup instead..

....or maybe one heinous tragedy was about all the bookie could stomach in a blog that--for all its emphasis on life's darker aspects--does strive to strike a lighter tone. 

The final toll leaves eight dead. Some seven in critical condition.

Here we go again. Once again the realities of mortality intrude upon what was meant to be a joyous occasion. At the risk of sounding redundant from the last post, African football lovers remain accustomed to such dualities. Elation and empathy can and are experienced almost concurrently. 

Football lovers in general remain intimately familiar with the phenomenon of "crowd crushes". Ibrox. Hillsborough. Piazza San Carlo. Though it had nothing to do with football, a German writer might as well through in Duisburg 2010. That one still smarts. Lives lost needlessly.

Christian Eriksen's scare at the Euros--while uniquely horrifying in its own right--didn't force us football lovers to explain what we exalt so high still manages to directly produce such terrible outcomes. 

What can the bookie say that he hasn't already over the years in the pages of this sportsbook? To seek out nothing more than comfort and stability in life is a fool's errand. Terrifying truths must be faced daily. They must be confronted and processed. 

Those who shy away from pressure, pain, and hurt will ultimately wither. Those who endure despite them have much to offer. Many who love the beautiful game actually do not treat it as a comfort blanket or some sort of hollow escapism. 

Football resembles more of a hard dose of the best and worst of our species; it does so from the rampant hooliganism of Europe to the tragedies experienced on the "mother continent." It is not perfect. Not by a long shot. Neither is life. That's no excuse for not at least trying to live it to the fullest extent possible.

Each individual possesses the capability to add their portion of color to the world. A world in which these seven gentlemen didn't join forces to collectively augment their joint contribution isn't much of a world at all, at least not in the opinion of this chronicler.  

Onwards we march, brothers. Let's do the semis!

Bookie's Updated Stats

Spread: 19-29

Straight Up: 24-15-9

Wednesday, February 2nd

Burkina Faso vs. Senegal


Such a pleasant surprise to be proven wrong about my favored Burkinabés. Way to avenge the "Super Eagles", mates. Without Bertrand Traoré in the starting lineup, Kamou Malo's Stallions went ahead and slew the North African giants anyway!

Straight to the stands outside the RoumdĂ© Adija track!

When it comes to handicapping this match, the key question comes down to whether Senegal's 3-1 win over the Equatoguineans constitutes a genuine "awakening". Are Aliou CissĂ©'s Terangans finally on track after bursting through those knots? 

It is true that they were kind enough to equal their total tournament goal-haul in a single match. The performance nevertheless didn't inspire a great deal of confidence. The final two tallies came late-on. Despite offering virtually zilch in terms of an attack, the Equatorial Thunder were permitted to operate on equal terms. 

Oh well. A confidence boosting win shifts the calculus irrespective of how it's obtained. 

It's a monster match anyway one cares to look at it. Difficult to fathom that these two teams haven't met at this level since the 2000 tournament group stages. They just kept missing one another in the elimination brackets. 

On paper there isn't much separating them. That's why your friendly bookie can afford to go with something of a sentimental hunch. The BurkinabĂ© have defied so many odds already during this competition. 

Reminds one of that 2013 squad. Nostalgia should obviously never drive logic.....but it's my goddamned sportsbook and my wallet on the line. May the blessed spirits of Alain TraorĂ© and Jonathan Pitroipa guide you, Stallions. 

Prop Bets (as always, feel free to offer your own)

Over/Under—4 Goals

120 Minutes—Straight Up

Penalty Shootout—Straight Up

 B. TraorĂ© start—Straight Up

 I. OuĂ©draogo goal—Straight Up

 S. ManĂ© benching—2 to 1

 I. Sarr goal—2 to 1

THE LINE: Burkina Faso +1 Goal

Cameroon vs. Egypt


One of our quarterfinal Cinderellas proved no match for the mighty hosts. Even if Karl Toko Ekambi's brace had to wait for the second 45, the ultimate outcome of the fixture never appeared to be in much doubt. We all knew what was coming. 


It's certainly been something of a soft path through the knockouts for the Indomitables. Comoros and Gambia. One can indeed make the case that the tournament starts haven't faced a true test apart from the opening group stage match against the BurkinabĂ©. 

They've got one now. 

Words can't adequately describe how incredibly awesome it is to watch Mo' Salah have the privilege of contest an international fully fit and in form. One goal and one assist for the legend in the 2-1 victory over the Atlas Lions. 

Carlos Queiroz's ramshackle 4-3-3 continues to confound as much as it disappoints. The Pharaohs frequent frustrate in that they are choppy and barely functional. That naturally matters not when one actor proves capable of picking up an entire team on shoulders. 

Salah managed that on Sunday. He could absolutely do it again. Christ does this count as a tough tip. Anything can happen in this emotionally charged rematch of the 2017 Final in Libreville. 

Vincent Aboubakar can absolutely do it again too. He's in even more absurdly good form than he was in that competition. The two titans from five years ago square off yet again. Do excuse the bookie for getting goosebumps. 

Who shall be the hero this time? In the end, we'll have to tip West Africans on the basis of more weapons. Clinton N'Jie, Christian Bassogog, StĂ©phane Bahoken, or even our German lads Pierre-Kunde Malong and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting might have something to say in this, their swan song for country.

Prop Bets (as always, feel free to offer your own)

Over/Under—4 Goals 

120 Minutes—Straight Up

Penalty Shootout—Straight Up

 Choupo-Moting start—2 to 1

 Ekambi brace—2 to 1

 Salah brace—2 to 1

 Marmoush goal—2 to 1

THE LINE: Cameroon +1 Goal