When Simba SC loss to Mbeya City FC looks like a league decider

20Jan 2022
By Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
When Simba SC loss to Mbeya City FC looks like a league decider

​​​​​​​INTERMINABLE debate is raging on the way a 10-man Mbeya City FC not only held on its own against reigning champions Simba SC but also seemed to close out the league run as pacesetter Young Africans SC, nicknamed 'Yanga', retained their eight points lead on their nearest rivals. 

Simba SC striker, Denis Kibu (L), dribbles past Mbeya City FC defenders when the outfits locked horns in this season's NBC Premier League match which took place in Mbeya on Monday. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SIMBA SC

That lead though is not as massive as it appears as Simba SC has a game in hand by comparison, and the league is only nearing the halfway mark, so there are too many matches to be played for the excited archrivals to the reigning champions to soften up.

Still, the more significant aspect about the result is that the league is more equal in its competitive ability than many of us thought it was, but at the same time, the result just signaled that Mbeya City FC is another powerhouse in the Premier League. 

For that reason, some of us went back to the Premier League standing to look at its performance, along with listening to analyses by pundits. 

There it was surprising to hear that the perceptibly ‘lowly’ Mbeya side has only had one defeat, the second match before its Simba encounter.

In that case, the Mbeya City FC defeat was only surprising because the regional side is relatively unknown in its potential and particularly so in its standing in the Premier League at the moment, where it ranks third. 

The more popular sides of Azam FC and Namungo FC are ranked at seventh and eighth respectively, which implies that the Monday encounter was really top of the charts but most people did not know it, thus caught in stupefaction about Simba SC failing the test. 

It on the whole means the league is a lot more competitive than we tend to think. 

In that case, the loss by the reigning champions was a lesson in reality.

Still, there were rather usual features in how big sides lose games they take as casual, as Simba SC itself was in the view that they win the match to reduce the gap with the league leaders, which means they more or less skipped the adversary. 

Their mind was elsewhere, and in addition, some keen observers present in Mbeya noticed that the visiting side wasn’t keen enough in the match preparations. 

One key official of the Mbeya side being interviewed said the team had a practice session only in the late evening just before the match was played, which suggests that they were not worried about the side, or careful.

Without question the opposite is what happened in the Mbeya City FC camp, that they made a thorough study of the champions’ game pattern and managed to use their rough pitch and its conscience parameters to their advantage, setting the pattern of the game.

Pundits were generally agreed that the visitors walked into a patter decided by the home side, and there were few visible remedies.

A mishandled penalty and a red card gave the usual apprehension of defenders meeting the champions also did not settle matters, as the hosts reinforced the rear and directed play towards the center, diminishing wing to suit the manpower.

Yet even with the more careful planning of the home side and skilful use of a bad pitch, there was no doubt which was the better team overall, though it didn’t click in what it was doing.

Whether one goes for a technical explanation like a narrow pitch killing the tempo of the Simba pattern of play or prefers to allow that luck wasn’t on their side, it must be admitted that there is something of extra resilience on the part of the Mbeya side, and that is also why it is third on the table. 

It takes a lot to play ten against the champs and hold on, despite that mishandled penalty helping to escort the visiting side head up finally.

There were similarly some reflections on moves and tactics on the Simba technical bench, appearing to show a certain amount of confusion, panic, or desperation, as visibly nothing seemed to work against the home side. 

A few lingering questions remain in what was being said, as to the source of confusion or apparent inability to find something workable, which squares up with the view that the visitors entered into a game plan of the home side and just stuck there. 

Technical appreciation of the Mbeya goal, hit by a veteran who knows a few things on how the city rival's play was there, but not why Simba failed to score.

That is why it was enlightening to hear a pundit pick a reflection from the legendary Edson Arantes do Nascimento, otherwise known as Pele, that luck plays a part in soccer. 

That is indisputable, but as the league standing and the pattern of play indicate, one has to prepare to receive the luck, do everything that needs to be done, and wait for luck or otherwise hope for it. 

Without these preliminaries as to where the Mbeya side stands in the league, their record of not being defeated, the skilful use of the pitch, one can’t trust on luck to steer a side against the champions.