The tanks rolled up outside the parliamentary buildings at midday, the country of Equatorial Katanga had been secured. 65 days of fighting was all it had taken to overrun the Central African country, 20,000 hired guns on the payroll of Ángel Bastardo had caught everybody by surprise. Not least the international community who were now frantically trying to understand who Ángel Bastardo was and what he represents.
The ex-manager of Estudiantes and Prince of La Plata was now an African king and the International Community was powerless to intervene, for Bastardo had bought his alliances: much of Northern Africa & Russia were now benefiting from a cut of the diamond trade. Half of the UN were also subject to underhand payments, “sweeteners”, taken directly from the Estudiantes accounts, ensuring that the world will sit quietly and watch this fibra revolution unfold.
Crowds of over 10,000 had gathered to see Bastardo remove himself from the ceremonial tank, emblazoned with the Estudiantes club logo, and walk up the parliament steps to take his first day in office. He would address the nation on TV, and all the nations immediately surrounding Katanga (renamed as The Democratic Republic of La Plata). Bastardo was here to stay, his career of club management was over, it was time to rule a nation.
When Bastardo Met Mendoza…again
One could be forgiven for thinking that Ángel Bastardo was now the most famous Argentine on African soil, but that special feat belonged to a talented manager a few thousand miles north on the Mediterranean Coast. They referred to him in Tripoli as ‘El Diego’…from the House Mendoza. A long-time ally of Bastardo since the early La Plata years and a loyal confidant.
Mendoza was critical in the African revolution of Katanga, offering a continental platform for Bastardo to consolidate his troops, recruiting mercenaries from around North Africa and the Middle East. Mendoza was the key to the rest of the World, providing the gateway to Europe and beyond. The cost to Bastardo was Mendoza’s hefty cut of the diamond trade…but effective alliances work both ways.
Some background as to why Mendoza was here in Tripoli, from the man himself:
“Africa…who the fuck has ever managed in Africa?!? After all there is only one out of the box African League which is South Africa so it’s not surprising that so few people have tried their hand at conquering this footballing continent.
In recent years though Claassen’s excellent league packs have opened up a whole new world of FM opportunities [You can find Claassen’s league packs here], one that I myself have embraced over the last few years. Now let’s be clear that what Claassen provides is just the league structure and competitions, he doesn’t touch any of the team or player data within that nation. I can’t blame him as that would make it even more of a mammoth task. Therefore, what I’ve done over the past few years is to try and do a bit of research myself to try and make sure the league I decide I’m going to play in is has some longevity. After all there is nothing worse than investing yourself in a save only to find out it’s a non-starter 1 or 2 seasons in.
Twitter is a wonderful place for doing this, I’m amazed at the quality of real-life football coverage that is available. I follow some fantastic twitter accounts that cover Iraqi football, Lebanese football, African football, Asian etc. I think it can be easy to get caught up in the European game and forget that football is a global game. Just because there isn’t maybe the same level of ability in other areas of the world, it doesn’t mean there isn’t the same history and passion of support seen at any of the more famous European clubs. Last year I had a fascinating save with Al Wahda in the UAE and although initially I returned to South America to manage Olimpia, I was still craving something different.
What about Africa? I headed to my favourite place for inspiration…Wikipedia. I needed an interesting team, one that had a nice kit and more importantly had a decent fan base. I must have spent the best part of an hour browsing through various teams, I thought about Raja Casablanca in Morocco, Ittihad in Egypt and a few of the Nigerian teams…then I spotted Libya. Now for those of you that don’t know I’m quite interested in my Middle Eastern politics, having studied it at Uni. Libya has obviously had some tough times since the Civil War started in 2011 and the country still remains as one of the most dangerous countries in the world. The Libyan league itself is one of the strangest formats you’ll see, with teams playing in city groups before a playoff being played in neighbouring Tunisia to determine the overall winner. Stadium bans have only just been lifted but are still heavily restricted and teams cannot fly between cities due to the threat posed by rival militias anti-aircraft missiles.
Now prior to the civil war the Libyan football world was very different. For starters it was ridiculously corrupt and run fully by Colonel Ghaddafi’s son, you remember? The guy that played for Perugia back in the day? Despite the corruption, games used to bring in 50,000 plus supporters with the main stadiums in Tripoli holding up to 80,000 fans. People play FM in different ways and that is one of the great things about FM. Many like to play as realistically as they like and don’t touch the editor, I on the other hand like to mix things up a bit in order to hopefully boost my interest in the save. As such I quickly realised that only playing 20 games a season was going to becoming very boring very quickly. As such I decided to create my own fantasy Libya where the war had finished, stadiums were open to fans again and a proper football competition was created. I therefore changed the Libyan league format back to a standard 20 team format with a 2nd division also containing 20 teams. I reinstated the Libyan League cup and Libyan Cup that had not been played since before the war to give some variety to the competitions we’d play in each season. I also thought about the player restrictions for each competition that forced teams into playing and developing Libyan players but also not so restrictive that the AI couldn’t cope with them as was the problem during my time in the UAE. One thing I also like to do is set the Youth contract age to 14 which means that any newgens will arrive aged 14 or 15 rather than 16 or 17. I like this primarily because it feels like I have more opportunity to develop and mould my youngsters into the Mendoza way. Plus, everyone loves a story about a 14-year-old Hugo Ojeda or Rais Salah making his debut and impressing.
So I was set, just needed to pick a team.
Al-Ahli Sports Club Tripoli
Play in green kits made my Adidas – Tick
Play in the 80,000 seater stadium 11th June, Tripoli - Tick
Good fan base – Tick
Watch a few highlight videos of them on YouTube and like what I see – Off we go then.
And the rest as they say is history.” D.Mendoza
The Greatest Team in the World?
Yes, Mendoza certainly did make history in Africa. 5 years, 5 leagues wins and 22 cup trophies and a chance for a 23rd on the greatest stage: the Club World Cup Final. Bastardo had taken time away from ruling The Democratic Republic of La Plata to watch from the stands in Canada to see Al-Ahli Sports Club take on Tottenham Hotspur of England. Cue some FM analysis…
Mendoza's Al-Ahli are vastly different to Bastardo's Estudiantes, most notable is the amount of attacking duties placed into the Mendoza's 4-2-3-1 narrow formation. 5 of the 10 outfield players are set to attack. The marauding wingbacks of Gastón Silva & Issifu Maman are known for creating effective overloads in attacking spaces. Their movement into the attacking third creating opportunities for the tricky AMC trio of: Ramírez, Cardona and Giménez (two Shadow Strikers either side of an Enganche). When Al-Ahli were hot, they were scintillating.
It was clear from the onset that Al-Ahli were not here to make up the numbers, their constant pressing and tight marking were leaving no room for Tottenham, who lined up in a 5-2-2-1, to breathe and take time on the ball. The left and right sided attacking midfielders (Ramírez & Giménez) were supremely effective at man marking Tottenham’s full backs.
Below is an example at how selfless the attacking midfielders work. Ramírez (11) tracking back deep into his own half when out of possession to man mark. However, when possession is regained, and Al-Ahli have the ball, Ramírez’s natural reaction is to run back into a central position. Likewise Wing Back Silva (3) is bombing forward, overloading the midfield. Time and time again the AML/AMR sacrificial behaviour was thwarting Tottenham and in turn creating opportunities when the ball was back with the Libyans.
31 mins - GOAL - Al-Ahli (1-0)
A good corner delivery from Mateo Cardona saw Gino Hurtado leap highest against Harry Kane and Jorge Meré…the resulting knockdown was hammered home by Jair Rodríguez. It’s what the game needed after a relatively tight 30 mins.
Risk Vs Reward
Mendoza’s attacking spearhead of Miranda as the Deep Lying Forward on Support duty was immensely effective at drawing out Tottenham’s Centre Backs. Miranda would often drop deep to link with Enganche Mateo Cardona in the AMC strata, allowing Ramírez and Giménez the licence to roam forward.
Miranda’s role this evening was to provide link up, which meant he rarely got in behind the Tottenham back line, except one time on 53 minutes. Cardona putting great through ball into Miranda meaning a 1:1 situation occurred between the Bolivian and Frenchman Hugo Lloris. It was a Clear Cut Chance (CCC) spurned by Al-Ahli, with Lloris making the save.
Miranda’s performance once again typified the sacrifices made from players under the Mendoza regime. His prevailing movement away from goal meant he only managed 4 touches in the opposition penalty area and only another 57 elsewhere on the pitch before being substituted on 73 mins (15-year-old Rais Salah his replacement). A direct contrast to the likes of Giménez who managed 220 touches in the on-rushing Shadow Striker role (admittedly he played the whole game). It’s a demonstration of how roles (such as the quartet above) work as a collective, rather than in isolation.
At 57% possession, Al-Ahli’s chance creation was really good for supposedly underdogs. The Libyan high line and constant intensity continued to frustrate Tottenham throughout. Unfortunately for Mendoza though, yet another CCC was spurned on 70 minutes: Newgen Juan Campo playing an exquisite through ball into Cardona. Another 1:1 with Lloris, only this time the Frenchman did not need to save…Cardona’s shot would drag wide. It was the third golden opportunity of the night and Al-Ahli really should have been at least two or three goals up by now.
Despite the Cardona miss and a temptation to become more reserved with 20 minutes to go, Mendoza’s boys continued to attack. Wing-Backs Maman and Silva frequently advancing into the Tottenham half, which highlights Al-Ahli’s biggest strength…and also their greatest weakness. Mendoza's 4-2-3-1 narrow had its flaws and it was quite obvious when you consider the use of double Wing Backs on attack duty. If the Shadow Strikers or the Wing Backs were too far forward when out of possession, a gaping hole is left for opponent wingers to exploit. One teasing cross and good attacking movement and Tottenham could be in against Mendoza's less-than agile Centre Back pairing.
That’s exactly what happened with 6 minutes remaining on the clock, the space left wide open by Maman was exploited by Tottenham’s Spanish Left Back Aarón. His cross eventually finding its way to Marcus Edwards to level the tie.
84 mins - GOAL - Tottenham (1-1)
But the best chance of the 90 minutes was yet to come, Tottenham’s Martin Ødegaard threading a fine ball into Marcus Edwards who bent his run perfectly to stay onside. With Al-Ahli’s backline sleeping, Marcus Edwards only had Argentine Goalkeeper Fernando Monetti to beat. SAVED. It would end 1-1 on 90 minutes. Mendoza’s men perhaps feeling fortunate to have survived that late scare.
At this point of the match, Tottenham were becoming increasingly tired. It’s no surprise then that on 95 minutes the industrious Newgen Juan Campo converted 15-year-old prodigy Rais Salah’s fine run and cross. Special vindication for Mendoza who took the bold move of taking record goal scorer Miranda off…for a young boy!
95 mins - GOAL - Al-Ahli (2-1)
Despite Tottenham needing a goal, and a new energy and fresh impetus, they stuck with the three central defenders (which included David Alaba). They seemed void of new ideas, and I am surprised they didn’t push the Austrian maestro further forward.
A chance did come in the form of a free kick on minute 107. Once again it was David Alaba who was ignored in favour of Marcus Edwards, whose freekick was fired a few centimetres away from the post. Fernando Monetti well and truly beaten but Al-Ahli continued to lead 2-1.
With 10 minutes to go Diego Mendoza continued with the 4-2-3-1 narrow…with slight tweaks to player mentalities. The Wing Backs now both on Defend duty and the Central Midfielders both dropping to DM. However, that didn’t stop substitute midfielder Landry Koné taking a needless pot shot from the breakdown of an Al-Ahli corner (long shots are a heredity trait in any Diego Mendoza team). Both Al-Ahli Centre Backs were sent up-field in this nonsensical attacking corner routine and now they had to run the length of the field to get back into position. With fullbacks covering, Hugo Lloris took advantage and picked out Cristian Eriksen, who in turn showed real quality to find an on-rushing Marcus Edwards. It was 2v2…
With pace and precision, Edwards finds Croatian Šime Vrsaljko (2) who duly places it into the net. It’s 2-2 in the cruellest of ways, with the goal clocked at 120+1 minutes.
120+1 mins - GOAL - Tottenham (2-2)
So, ten Al-Ahli players with a Penalty Taking attribute score under 10. Surely this was merely an exercise we had to get through to see Tottenham claim the Club World Cup trophy? Think again, Mendoza’s boys (I really mean boys) stepped up and delivered. This included 15-year-old Rais Salah who covered his penalty like a seasoned professional. It was 21-year-old Tashan Oakley-Boothe who missed the decisive spot kick for Spurs, Fernando Monetti the hero of Tripoli. 4-3 on penalties. Diego Mendoza’s Al-Ahli were Club World Cup Winners.
Al-Ahli 2-2 Tottenham AET (Al-Ahli win 4-3 on penalties)
If my words, images and GIFs are not enough to recapture this epic match of Football Manager, then have a watch of the fine video that good friend Ted Redwood has put together for Diego Mendoza. It’s a great tribute to what was a roller-coaster of emotions on the night, thanks Ted.
Just make sure you listen all the way to the last 20 seconds…
Post-match interview with Diego Mendoza
AB: Diego, just wow. This was truly one of the most remarkable games of FM I have witnessed. What were your thoughts after both Tottenham equalisers?
DM: Ángel, after the first equaliser I was angry, the second I was distraught but at the final whistle I was elated. I love this team but my God do they take me on an emotional roller-coaster. The mental side of the game is something I spend a lot of time on. I’m forever shouting from the touch line to concentrate and continually reiterate the need to use our brains on the pitch. The two goals conceded today came from lapses of concentration and the lads know that despite the win they’ll be in for a bollocking come Monday for that.
AB: Who impressed you the most out there?
DM: I could say any number of players as we were excellent for 118 minutes today. For me though the unsung hero was Ahmed Moied. 18 years old and tasked with keeping Tottenham’s attacking midfield quiet and he did exactly that. He’s one of a number of young Libyan players in this side to get excited about despite not being as glamorous as the likes of Al Hark or Salah. He’s come along leaps and bounds this season and forms an excellent midfield partnership with Juan Campo. The CWC performance and win was the icing on the cake for his season.
AB: Rais Salah. 15 years old. How far can he go in the global game?
DM: Rais Salah is a great prospect and certainly has the potential to be the greatest ever Libyan footballer. He’s had a tough year after breaking every record going last season as a 14-year-old. But now aged 15 he has mostly been injured. He’d only just got back to full fitness in time for the CWC. It was a bold move to throw him on for Bruno but I’m a big believer that players learn best playing in pressure situations in important matches. He showed he’s got the talent and mentality today with his assist and penalty. He’ll go far.
Sadly I don’t think I’ll be around to see it...
Return to The Democratic Republic of La Plata
With the Club World Cup title sealed, Bastardo & Mendoza returned to Africa victorious on the promise that the revenue earned would be reinvested into homeland security. This meant a second wave of reinforcements into La Plata (AFR), repelling any partisan resistance that remained in the state.
It remains unclear as to what Bastardo’s end game is in Africa after the second wave is triumphant, but you can be sure that Diego Mendoza will have a role to play in whatever comes next.
If Katanga can fall…so could the Republic of Aswijan. The FM Community held its breath…
Ángel Bastardo & Diego Mendoza