Mtibwa Sugar and Zuberi Katwila in deep trouble

By Michael Mwebe , The Guardian
Published at 01:08 PM May 15 2024
Mtibwa Sugar head coach Zuberi Katwila .
Photo: File
Mtibwa Sugar head coach Zuberi Katwila .

THE fight for survival in the NBC Premier League has taken several twists and turns in recent months. After the round 26 and 27’s results, Mtibwa Sugar finds themselves in 16th place in the table, four points behind Tabora United.

The relegation is far from cut and dry, but many believe that this could be the season that ends Mtibwa Sugar’s 27-year presence in the Tanzanian top flight.

Only Simba and Young Africans have spent more consecutive years in the top tier of the Tanzanian game than the Millers from Turiani.

Mtibwa Sugar finished in 10th place in the NBC Premier League last season, just two positions above the relegation zone.

They were four points clear of Mbeya City, who were relegated through the playoffs by championship side Mashujaa.

Mtibwa Sugar picked up six points from their final two matches of the 2022/23 campaign to secure their place in the top flight under the guidance of caretaker coach Awadh Juma.

Things were expected to improve at the beginning of the new season after making wholesale changes to the playing squad including hiring a new coach Habib Kondo.

It seems that Mtibwa Sugar’s fate of returning to the Championship is gradually becoming more certain as their struggle in the NBC Premier League have persisted for a fourth season in a row.

Four defeats in a row at the business end of the season deepened Mtibwa Sugar predicament leaving them a sure candidate for direct relegation.

With three matches remaining, Mtibwa Sugar find themselves nine points from safety, having won only five of their 27 encounters this season.

On Monday afternoon, their hopes took another major blow when they lost 3-1 to champions Young Africans. This disappointing outcome only added to their struggles in what has been a dismal 2023/24 season.

With only 20 points to show for their efforts and with just three games left to play, Mtibwa Sugar find themselves firmly anchored to the bottom of the league (16th) standings, a position underscored by their staggering 17 defeats and just five victories.

Their situation becomes more precarious as they trail 12th-placed Dodoma Jiji by nine points, with the latter having a game in hand against Simba tomorrow evening.

The team from Turiani has big factors against them in that their remaining three fixtures look really difficult on paper. The other issue is that the Millers’ goal difference is the worst in the league.

It all feels like everything is against Zuberi Katwila and his team. With games against Namungo, Mashujaa and Mtibwa Sugar, they have to grind out wins and hope other results go their way.

I fail to see how Mtibwa Sugar can get out of this mess. The fixtures are certainly against the out-of-form team beating the drop to the Championship.

On paper, they probably have one game left all season that they might be favourites for and that is against a Namungo side that is yet to confirm safety.

Namungo are just one point from the dotted line. With only five points separating Mashujaa who occupy the last playoff spot, as many as seven sides are still in danger of falling into the relegation playoffs.

Even their most optimistic fans do not seem confident that their team can pick up enough points to avoid the dreaded drop down to the Championship.

While the odds may seem daunting, there’s still a glimmer of hope for Mtibwa Sugar to secure safety through the promotion/relegation playoffs.

This scenario hinges on Tabora United, Geita Gold and Mashujaa losing all their remaining   matches while the Morogoro side will need to collect nine points from their final three fixtures, which would propel them into the playoffs.

In this playoff format, the 14th-placed team squares off against the 13th in a two-legged home and away tie. The aggregate retains topflight status with the loser facing another fighting chance with a two-legged tie against and a team from the Championship.

No doubt there are still plenty of twists and turns left in the fight for Premier League survival this season. At the moment though, things do not look great for the Turiani outfit.

Though nothing is set in stone, it is a tough ask for anyone to back Mtibwa Sugar to escape the drop this season. Mtibwa Sugar and head coach Zuberi Katwila are indeed in deep trouble.

Katwila is facing the unwanted record of a second relegation in three years. He was in charge when Ihefu were relegated to the Championship in the 2020/21 season.