It was a sort of peace of the brave where the local champions, Simba SC, whose prowess in the CAF Champions League last season made it possible for Mainland Premier League and Federation Cup runners-up, Yanga, to feature in the premier continental club tourney.
But as they had expressed no appreciation for their street-end rivals for being able to participate, they drew a pedigree foe, quit the race.
With a sufficient number of ‘ifs’, it is easy to see how Yanga could have progressed to the next round if at least they were drawn with one of the neighbouring country champions or smaller champion clubs in the wider vicinity.
But picking up Rivers United FC was a sort of bad luck as it is champion in a country that is fairly well known for its football standards for decades, if one recalls Enugu Rangers, Ibadan Shooting Stars, Kano Pillars Contractors, and in the past decade, Enyimba FC.
The latter was a household name here but it appears to have faded somewhat, such that Plateau United was champion last year, and now Rivers United FC.
Identical results for the archrivals’ outings enabled a remarkably quiet start of the week as offices and street corners were bereft of their otherwise animated comparisons likely to have showered over everyone had at least one of them achieved a good result.
All the same, it is Yanga who was saved from disgrace by the fact that Simba SC lost their apex friendly encounter, in like manner as Yanga also lost their friendly the previous week when Zanaco FC came around for ‘day of the people’ celebrations.
There was no real loss of face as it was friendly, and that was the same thing for Simba SC in this outing.
In that sense it would have been rather pointless for Yanga to celebrate a marginal discomfiture on the part of their rivals, had they won their key away match and Simba SC lost in the friendly.
Mocking the local champions would have been a fitting mode of celebration had they obtained positive results, which from the balance of things was unlikely - blocking of players for registration and COVID-19 pretenses – but also structural issues like inadequate training program, or a technical bench unused to the timelines.
The fact that Simba SC lost the friendly saved Yanga plenty of headaches, what to say before the dominant rivals.
From that moment onwards the city crowds and pundits are back on familiar territory, where Simba SC is of course involved in the continental championship and despite losing two gifted players to better-paying rivals to the north, it is a dependable side.
The usual city rivals' environment will be back in full galore, where the dominated Jangwani Street rivals will be a morale booster for visiting sides if at some point the continental federation lifts its largely unwarranted crowd exclusion.
While the UEFA circuit has almost everywhere ended lockouts, CAF has just discovered their urgency.
What is uncertain is how far there is a chance that this year’s scenario, brief as it has been, is repeated next year, that is, we have identical results where Simba SC is a champ and has done well in the CAF Champions League, such that Tanzania has two places for each of the continental tourneys.
This year the Jangwani Street side looked forward to reappearing on international soccer, and their registration (apart from the still unconvincing technical bench) looked well poised to deliver.
But the nuts were loose here and there – and in addition, had cultivated bad luck for themselves after ‘insulting the croc before crossing the river.’
There is an expression made famous by a 19th-century writer that says ‘Hic Rhodus, hic salta!’ as Yanga had insisted to all and sundry that it did not need to be carried on the back by Simba SC to feature in the continental tourney.
In that context, they were given a stern test, which Simba SC succeeded to overcome last year in that Rivers United FC is comparable to Plateau United in their Nigerian league level, not superstars.
As Rivers United or Plateau United pundits would probably put it, one is assured of a win over a champion team from Nigeria if the side is anywhere near the continent’s top ten, to which Enyimba FC, TP Mazembe, Horoya AC, and a few others have belonged for close to a decade.
Others come and go, with continental pundits waiting to see if Simba will seal its stamp as a big side in this year’s run as well, which it looks promising to be able to do.
As for Yanga, it has failed to demonstrate that it is knocking on the gates of big African teams, as that means you clear out the likes of Plateau United or Rivers United FC more or less for the asking.
Tackling the likes of Al Ahly comes later even with the fact that Simba SC ended halfway from flipping Kaizer Chiefs.