North African teams, still smarting from an all sub-Saharan final in the CAF Nations Cup tournament a while back, are having more food for thought after a badly organized return leg between Simba SC and ES Setif failed to dislodge Simba from the commanding lead they had built in Dar es Salaam.
Uncertain if a cold environment would be enough to put Simba sufficiently on the defensive for them to crawl back into the contention they organized a muscled reception, and a well orchestrated officiating of the game. Simba lost a defender in the early minutes of the game and had it tough to perform to their real worth.
The match was officiated by a Moroccan referee, an indulgence it seems that the continental federation is permitting stakeholders to entertain – more or less looking the other way if some shady deals for personal gratification take place.
It is said that in the home encounter for Simba the referee came from neighbouring Rwanda, and not surprisingly seeming a pal of club chairman Aden Rage, a Tabora-based businessman who should know ‘who is who’ in soccer in the neighbouring country.
So there is little point in blaming either CAF or Setif, as CAF allows indulgences, and Setif just did it a bit more resolutely.
Nonetheless the scrappy win at the end of the two ties is a relief for Simba because, outside dangers of being overconfident in the next stage of the tournament, they may have a more relaxed moment facing either the Mozambican railways side Ferroviaro or El Ahly Shandy of the Sudan.
Both these clubs are more or less equal strength with Simba, while ES Setif would appear a shade stronger owing to the more intense North African track record, and Simba more than demonstrated it can hold them. In that sense, on the basis of the route taken to arrive in the last 16 Simba would be better placed than Ferroviaro, etc.
Obviously this outcome constitutes a relief to the soccer fraternity in the country, which had of late started to pose questions as to what is wrong with the sport – and hastily picking on national coach Jan Poulsen.
Were Simba to make it to the quarter finals or beyond, not to speak of the big prize, everyone would agree that there is nothing especially wrong with the sport, since we can stand on our own at club level with some of the best.
And had it not been for uzawa madness, we could have clinched the CECAFA regional tourney at nations level with Poulsen, as he applied correct tactics to win it the previous year.