It is much the same with respect to our national team, Taifa Stars.
Simba are anchored in Group D of the 2018/2019 CAF Champions League and have started their campaign impressively by drubbing the visitors, setting something of a record.
The idea that a North African club representing the country in the Champions League at group stage risks humiliation in Dar es Salaam is something of a novelty. We are accustomed to seeing it happen the other way round, with the ‘Arabs’ stereotype a scarecrow in city talk shops.
This result was all the more uplifting as Simba happen to be the only club from East Africa playing at the group stage of the CAF Champions League. Going by what the Algerian club coach was saying on arrival in Dar es Salaam, the visitors must have expected a walkover.
It was widely believed that this was because the Algerians considered their other opponents, Egyptian giants Al Ahly and a little less so AS Vita of DR Congo as the real threat – but not Simba.
As it now turns out, it is the Algerian side that has started to look like they are the rank underdogs although this isn’t a knockout format and therefore there is still plenty for all teams to do before the picture gets clear enough for anyone to make informed guesses.
One Tanzanian newspaper put things in the reverse when it warned Simba against ‘underrating’ JS Saoura, whereas it was the other way round that was more likely. And it definitely happened, as Algeria is a prominent name in African soccer that has featured repeatedly in the World Cup finals.
There are ways in which Algeria often outshines Egypt, the most dreaded side in the North African list, but all this is proving something of the past. With focus on the part of their ‘opponents’, North African sides now appear beatable.
Judging by usual impressions, it is safe to say that Simba benefited from a sort of oversight on the part of the Algerian club, its technical bench in particular, as they were preoccupied with Al Ahly and thought Simba was a walkover.
The point is that, with the 3-0 result, there is a real danger that the opposite situation happens, and then the return match is a fiasco. That would remind fans of how Simba once reversed 0-4 loss to Zambia’s Mufulira Wanderers in Dar es Salaam to clinch a 5-0 win in their away game – and this for the simple reason that the home side wrongly thought the match was a formality.
Simba players have won the broad admiration of the fans and helped to finish off the jinx of inability to stand to North African opposition. While they will have to prevent the home side from reversing the scenario in the return match, they have earned plenty of respect already.
Considering what they have done and seen, Simba players should be far less unsettled when they have a North African fixture. We salute them – and wish them all the best.