16 June 2012

Tanzania/Ethiopia: It's Win or Bust for Twiga Stars

TWIGA Stars' head coach, Charles Boniface Mkwasa, has admitted the team's return leg match against Ethiopia in the second round of the 2012 African Women Championship (AWC) Qualifiers, scheduled for Saturday the National Stadium, is an extremely important assignment for the former and will, therefore, compel the team to go all out in search of victory.

The Tanzanian ladies suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of their Ethiopian counterparts, whose squad is popularly known as Lucy, in the first leg match played in Addis Ababa a fortnight ago and the former will, therefore, need a win to qualify for the finals.

And, having already realised the magnitude of the task awaiting Twiga Stars on Saturday, Mkwasa said his side will have to play an attacking game so it could score the much needed goals and knock Lucy out of the qualifiers. "We have to play an open game, which has more of an attacking approach, so that we could score goals and win the match," said the former Yanga and senior national soccer team, Taifa Stars, mercurial midfielder.

"This is a very important match to us because, if we lose, we will be out of international competitions for quite some time. We, therefore, have to attack from the beginning to the end with a view to notching the win," added Mkwasa. He requested domestic soccer lovers to turn up at the stadium in numbers and cheer Twiga Stars throughout, given that the fans' support has always been valuable.

Mkwasa, once again, expressed his delight at having experienced defender and skipper, Sophia Mwasikili, back in the squad after the player, who plays professional soccer for the Turkey women top flight outfit of Luleburgazgucu Spor Kulubu, was released by the club for the match. Sophia has been Twiga Stars' defensive stalwart in continental assignments and her absence in the first leg match of the 2012 AWC Qualifiers in Addis Ababa was seriously felt.

Etto Mlenzi, who also plays for a domestic women top flight team of JKT Ruvu Queens, is another experienced member that will be available for today's match after missing out on the larger part of Twiga Stars' preparations following the failure by her employers, National Service (JKT), to give her permission to join the squad on time.

"Sophia is a professional player, so, we believe she will easily fit into our team's playing pattern. Professional players are normally not allowed by FIFA (the world soccer governing body) to stay long with their respective national teams...they are only permitted to join their national teams four days before the international matches because it is believed they know their duties and will hardly have trouble linking with their team mates," said Mkwasa.

Lucy's head coach, Abreham Haimanot, said his squad is now familiar with Twiga Stars as the two sides have met four times in continental qualifiers. Lucy will therefore, seek to fully exploit the familiarity with the Tanzanian side to seek a second victory and make their maiden appearance in the continental women soccer showpiece.

"We have prepared well for the match. We did not qualify for the 2010 AWC played in South Africa but, this time, we are determined to qualify...tomorrow (today) the best team will win," he said. Haimanot noted that Lucy played an international friendly match against Ghana in Addis Ababa a couple of days back and forced a 0-0 draw. Ghana camped in the Ethiopian capital for a few days as they are on their way to Cameroon to play the latter in the return leg of the qualifiers.

Twiga Stars players went to the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) premises on Friday to have a morale boost in the form of advice from the Coast Region's Regional Commissioner, Mwantumu Mahiza, who cautioned the ladies to follow their coaches' instructions, apart from abiding to the game's rules to avoid costing the team dearly.

"It is important to obey the game's rules to avoid costing the team. You should concentrate on working hard on the pitch and fight for the country's pride... each of you should at all times be confident of your own ability to play well and win the match for the country....never rely on your team mate to win a game for you," said Mwantumu.

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