With all their handicaps, Simba SC deserve praise

18Mar 2019
The Guardian
With all their handicaps, Simba SC deserve praise

OUR country is without doubt a sports-loving nation. We love sports – with soccer doubtless the most popular among our people.

In our tens of millions, we have always wished that we fared much better in sports locally, regionally, continentally and globally than has obtained thus far.

Come this just-ended weekend, and suddenly we are seeing indications of the realisation of our dreams – specifically, what with the wonders we witnessed at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam on Saturday night.

It is the fact that our representatives in continental club soccer, Simba Sports Club, have scaled a massive hurdle at the expense of Democratic Republic of Congo champions AS Vita to reach the quarter finals of the African Club Championships.

This has come about thanks to Simba’s 2-1 victory in a nail-biting final group match. By all accounts, it was a rare achievement – and definitely the ‘boys’ deserve congratulations.

Simba reached nine points after the win, an achievement partly resulting from excellent use of home ground ‘advantage’ as compared to performance in away matches.

It was a quality well shared by group teams that they tended to do very well at home and somewhat incapacitated in away matches, and this was particularly true of our ‘ambassadors’.

An online reviewer aptly said before the last group match that the Tanzanian side’s away record was ‘shocking’, and on the basis of that series of results it could have been counted out. That wasn’t ultimately the case, and we are all happy for that.

Pundits will have a rather difficult time to explain why AS Vita could not even pull a draw after having won 5-0 at home, and whether the hosts’ weather advantage against Al Ahly of Egypt and JS Saoura of Algeria would not apply to the Congolese side.

The answer might be gleaned in what one commentator in live airing of the match at one moment said – that the visitors appeared rather relaxed, playing well but not feeling the same urgency as the local side. Still that sense of urgency doesn’t always lead to scoring but bitterness and, if a goal is scored, confusion.

That did not quite happen in what was a much-awaited encounter, though a goal not so early in the first half and before a rejoinder before the breather brought up the threat of panic, but the players proved truly professional and level headed, indeed prepared to playing for 90-plus minutes.

Towards the end of the second half, it was a gamble on the part of the coach to pull out a defender for an attacking midfielder, and for some reason the right-side portion of the AS Vita defence exposed gaps where Simba forwards stood unguarded on several occasions.

It was precisely such an instance that brought one or two poorly used chances and then the one that brought up an all-important winning goal.

In that sense, apart from the usual confidence that they won 5-0 in Kinshasa and that the weather would not trouble them, there were gaps in organising the defence in late stages.

All the same, Simba SC may have had blessings coming their way owing to yearning for this moment for a long time. And again our competitors are allowed to sign any players they want and from wherever it is, while our own clubs must do with a maximum of seven foreign players.

Still, a point has been proved that our teams can win despite that limitation, but the crying away performance is a sore foot. After all is said and done, though, Simba Sports Club merits kudos for a job well done.

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