Tanzanian fans will take a short while to reawaken from outlandish CAF

27Feb 2021
The Guardian Reporter
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Tanzanian fans will take a short while to reawaken from outlandish CAF

SOBERING up has not as yet begun on the part of local soccer fans, apart from the more sober betting fraternity, as to where the country’s leading sides stand in continental football.

Simba SC's fullback, Shomari Kapombe (L), challenges Egypt's Al Ahly player in the 2021 CAF Champions League's group stage clash between the two clubs, which took place at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam on February 23. Simba SC registered 1-0 victory over Al Ahly. PHOTO: CORRESPONDENT JUMANNE JUMA

The reason was a series of wins, some logical and some surprising, either on account of the clubs they defeated or the margin itself, chalking up three matches that all had surprising results.

Most notable in the clubs they defeated was Simba SC winning 1-0 against famed Egyptian side, Al Ahly, where the margin was right but not many people expected they could pull it through, given the formidable track record of the multiple CAF Champions League's kings.

What was more digestible in the series of wins was the local champions’ outwitting of DR Congo's AS Vita in an away match by the same margin, where frankly no element of surprise was necessary on the part of local observers as Simba obtained the benefit of surprise.

As it has a modestly to fair track record in the CAF top tournament, the Msimbazi Street side is just beginning to elicit respect from continental major sides, in which case AS Vita did not work overnight for that clash.

They would for instance be remembering that the side lost by a wide margin last time they were in Kinshasa or thereabouts, or knocked out by Mozambique's UD Songo.

Yet the most outlandish win on record was the 6-2 result that Namungo FC obtained against famous Angolan side, Primeiro de Agosto (1st of August, a heroic commemoration), in the first of two bitter encounters in the wake of tit for tat sabotage appearances in relation to the COVID-19  environment.

The second result of 3-1 win by the visiting side was strictly speaking more in accord with the legacy of the two sides, for the Angolan side is a regular feature in the major CAF tourneys either in the top or second tier as in this year, while Namungo are journeymen.

The loss in the return match may have had to do with the problems their coach would have faced in instructing players what to do – even just to obtain a draw.

While Namungo were reasonably certain of having qualified for the next stage of the tournament, in which case they were unavoidably overconfident, Simba fans were in a different world altogether, which is not strictly speaking good for the next series of fixtures, the ‘return’ games.

Having floored AS Vita on their own turf and then outclasses Al Ahly even in the game pattern and possession, the fans were in another planet.

It appeared as if they were just waiting to bag the cup, as they counted on repeating the same feat in Cairo given that they missed some clear scoring chances and hammer AS Vita at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam.

With the 3-1 result in the ‘return’ game right here, evidently Namungo players will be in a softer and thus more attentive mood to listen to the coach, Hemed Suleiman, on how to go about with other opponents in the next stage.

They will be aware that the 3-1 result at home actually makes them underdogs in the next stage against whichever side they meet, and memories of the 6-2 thriller tied to COVID-19 detentions will be something of the past.

Football glory can be like the morning dew, a hyperbole at first and only a faint glimmer within an hour or so, in which case Namungo glory lasted for less than a week and back to work.

Predictably it is Simba fans that will be more difficult to cure of their far-flung optimism, which is in a sense solid, as the game pattern that AS Vita showed in their home encounter said plenty of the strengths of the two sides, but they may alter their pattern of play or game strength next time.

While each encounter is an experiment at team strength, background data about where Tanzania and DRC stand in African soccer are vital to keep in mind, like the way three Champions League ‘last 16’ sides have first team players with a Mendy surname– Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester City. We are not anywhere near there, definitely.

What is evident is that the Simba coach has plenty to do to ensure that players are ready for exhausting physical work outs and not start imagining that they are at the top, and only wait for hefty bonuses for perhaps lifting the African Club Championship trophy.

This sort of fantastic claim has been on the lips of the fans for a while now that the side arguably dominated the game, leave out vital statistics of the level of football the two sides’ performances show, like the fabulous unbeaten run by the Egyptian side in their local and international tourneys, where only the 2-0 loss against Bayern de Munich was registered lately.

No predictions need to be made here, but the Al Ahly side that we saw at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium was deceptive.

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