Tanzania: Can Simba Reach CAF Top League Semis Again?

SIMBA are in the quarter final as group leaders, a position that entitles them to meet any team that finished second in its respective group.

A random survey shows that Simba’s next opponent is likely to come either from South Africa or Algeria. And teams from both countries are tough customers, when it comes to soccer, despite finishing second in their respective groups.

But Simba’s loquacious spokesman, Haji Manara, has already told those who had cared to listen to him that his club feared no team and that it was ready to take on anyone in its quest to attain its target which as we all know, is the semifinal. Manara has the right to say what he has said. But one thing is crystal clear.

Simba’s next opponent are very much likely to give them a run for their money, hence the need to prepare thoroughly for the knockout stages of the tournament. In fact, if truth is to be told, the real Champions League starts from the quarterfinal of the tournament. This is a stage which will indicate to us whether or not this is Simba’s year.

But if they do the right thing, I will not be surprised if Simba will go on and fulfill their target. For those who may not know the club’s history. Simba is the only Tanzanian soccer club to reach the semifinal of the tournament when it was known as the All Africa Club Championship.

They reached the semifinal of the tournament 47 years ago in 1974 after knocking out Ghana’s Hearts of Oak in the quarter final and would themselves be knocked out by Egypt’s textile owned club, Mehalla el Kubra, in a controversial match played in Alexandria, Egypt.

In the first leg match played at the Uhuru Stadium in Dar es Salaam, Simba beat Mehalla el Kubra by one goal to nil. The all-important goal was scored in the dying minutes of the match from 35m by Saad Ally, a former Lipuli player from Iringa. The question lingering on Tanzanians’ soccer fans now is; will Simba get to where they had reached 47 years ago?

Given where they have already reached, their target is not far, yet it’s not easy to get to if they don’t plan thoroughly for the two matches before them in the quarter final. If they are paired against the South Africans, Kaizer Chiefs, Simba would have to be extremely careful against the yellow shirted guys from the land of Madiba.

And nothing will help them more than going back to review Kaizer Chiefs’ video matches, especially the last one they played against Horoya in their backyard in Conakry, Guinea, on the same night they were losing in Cairo against multiple Champions League winners, Al Ahly.

In their last match against Horoya, Kaizer Chiefs were good in counter attacks and that finally helped them in overcoming their opponents. Besides, they seem to have taller players that Simba and the latter would have to be extremely careful when it comes to corner and free kicks.

The Algerians on the other hand are extremely fast on the ball and that is another thing that Simba will have to watch out, especially when it comes to counter attack. If Simba want to do well both in the quarter and semis, they will have to work extremely hard on their four respective S, namely, speed, suppleness, strength and stamina.

The final pairing for the quarter final would be made known by the continent’s football governing body, CAF at the end of this month, two weeks from today. Two weeks are quite adequate for drilling Simba players in the quest for building the players’ strength, suppleness, stamina and more importantly, speed.

To attain the foregoing, they need to work very hard on their endurance. Simba can only get far if they can play a high paced, careful tackling game for over two hours. They need to be guided in careful tackling in order not to attract fouls that can earn them red cards and completely destroy their plan.

It is important for Simba to realise one very important thing. Almost all teams fear them. They fear them because they did not expect a Tanzanian soccer club to reach where they have reached and in the style they have done, reducing Al Ahly to the second position in the group.

For let’s not forget that barely two years ago, Al Ahly beat Simba five goals to nil in Cairo. But they could not, this time around. The best they could do was the lone goal they scored in Cairo and the match was balanced. In fact, a goalless draw would have been a fair result.

The other Simba’s stunning result was the lone goal they scored against AS Vita in their own backyard in Kinshasa. Again, let’s not forget that this is the team that had beaten Simba by five goals to one in Kinshasa barely two years ago during the group stages of the tournament.

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