Can Coastal Union successfully win top-four battle in Premier League?

By Michael Mwebe , The Guardian
Published at 09:00 AM Apr 16 2024
Coastal Union's head coach, David Ouma.
Coastal Union's head coach, David Ouma.

COASTAL Union last qualified for the top-tier Africa interclub showpiece in 1988. Continental football has after that been a rarity for the Tanga-based club.

However, this season, Coastal Union, alias Wagosi wa Kaya, can qualify for the CAF Confederation. They are having one of those rare seasons, a campaign that could end in participation in continental football in 2024-25.

At the beginning of the season, Coastal Union failed to win any of their six NBC Premier League games under the tutelage of Mwinyi Zahera – recording three draws and three losses.

It was assumed they were in for another relegation fight come the end of the season.

Nevertheless, the club quickly made changes in the technical bench– Zahera was booted and replaced by David Ouma.

The coach has turned things around in style, converting them from relegation candidates to top-four hopefuls.

On Friday, Coastal Union edged hosts Mashujaa FC 2-1 to resume their NBC Premier League campaign by tightening their grip on fourth place and closing in on a CAF Confederation Cup spot.

A first away league win of 2024 saw the team move four points clear of both Tanzania Prisons and Kinondoni Municipal Council FC in fifth and nine points above Singida Fountain Gate FC occupying the seventh spot.

The Tanga club picked up 33 points from 22 games, scoring 18 goals and allowing just 16. They have the league’s second-best defense. 

Only league leaders, Young Africans SC, popularly known as Yanga, have conceded fewer goals.

With eight games to go, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Coastal Union's chances of securing a CAF Confederation Cup spot. 

The first and obvious reason for optimism is their current position. They are currently in fourth place, which is a good starting point.

Though they are not scoring many goals, as long as they stay plus in goal difference, there is a good chance they can achieve continental football for a second time.

Their recent form is another major factor. Ouma’s boys have won six of their last 10 Premier League games and have lost just three of their previous 15, showing good momentum. That's why they find themselves in the driving seat.

Coastal Union has favorable fixtures.  Some upcoming fixtures might be easier on paper than those faced by rivals like Kinondoni Municipal Council FC and Tanzania Prisons.

They will play their last two games of the season at home giving them an upper hand against their top four rivals. They will fancy themselves to get all six points in both games.

Their form at Mkwakwani Stadium has been excellent. They have taken 20 points from 33 on offer, winning six times and losing just three times against the big three. They are +5 in goals.

Coastal Union has been just as excellent on the road, posting the league’s fourth-best away points total with 13. On the road, they have won three games, drawing four and losing another four.

However, this is football which tends to go against a script and thus for all the optimism there are reasons for concern for Coastal Union's top-four aspirations.

Tough remaining fixtures: They still have to play some tough opponents like Yanga and their direct rivals, Kinondoni Municipal Council FC and Tanzania Prisons.

Competitor performance is something that cannot be ignored. Teams like Tanzania Prisons and potentially Ihefu are pushing hard for that fourth spot.

Then there is the elephant in the room which is the CRDB Federation Cup. There is a chance of Azam FC and Young Africans SC failing on the road to the CRDB Federation Cup final which would open up the CAF Confederation Cup spot to another team.

It is worth remembering finishing fourth in the NBC Premier League hardly guarantees a continental spot.

A CAF Confederation Cup ticket is offered to the fourth-placed outfit in the league, only if the CRDB Federation Cup winner also finishes in the top three.

Overall, it's too early to say for certain. However, Coastal Union has a good chance of securing a continental spot, but they'll need to maintain their good form and capitalize on some favourable fixtures. The upcoming matches will be crucial in determining their final position.

The sky is the limit and I think we are going to have another fairy tale story come the end of the season.

This time last year, the thought of Coastal Union playing continental football was a distant dream.

After a season of change, though, it might not be too long before Coastal Union spread its wings across the continent.