UGANDAN striker Emmanuel Okwi, adorned 'Simba Day' as the Mainland champions went down 3-1 to Nairobi's City Stars in a friendly match at the well packed National Stadium in Dar es Salaam.
Simba were condemned to second half goals by Bruno Okullu, Dancan Owiti and Boniface Onyango, while Zambian striker Felix Sunzu scored the lone goal for Msimbazi Street side in the first half. The annual event is increasingly becoming popular among Simba supporters, and this was the fourth year in a row the Reds were staging the bonanza, which precede the start of the Premier League season.
As usual, the club used the day to unveil new kits for the 2012/13 season, introduce their entire squad for the forthcoming season and award outstanding current and former players. The event kicked off with awards presentation and among the recipients was Ugandan international striker Emmanuel Okwi, who received best player of the 2011/12 gong. Okwi, who had made Simba leadership unsettled due to fans pressure, arrived in Dar es Salaam from Kampala, Uganda on Tuesday in time for 'Simba Day'.
Before his arrival, there were some rumours that he had signed to play for Simba rivals, Yanga, the situation which made Simba fans to pressurize the club's management to show the Ugandan striker contract. But the tense atmosphere was calmed down after his arrival, which only marked the beginning of festival. Okwi attended the Tuesday's evening clubs training although he did not play. He was mobbed by frenzied fans at the TCC Chang'ombe grounds.
Although, Simba SC insisted that Okwi passed his trial at FC Red Bull Salzburg, the Austrian Bundasliga 2011/2012 Champions, the striker said he did not participate in club's trial because he was sick. Other players who received awards yesterday include versatile and utility player Shomari Kapombe, who scooped the most disciplined award and the late Rwandan midfielder of Congolese origin Patrick Mafisango got honorary award in recognition of his contribution to Simba's achievement last season.
Also awarded were former players Khalid Abeid , Hamis Kilomoni and former cabinet minister Philemon Sarungi, who is an ardent Simba supporter. Tanzania Sports Writers' Association (TASWA) also received an award from Simba. Decked in red and white, Simba painted the state-of-the- art stadium red. The atmosphere was electrifying even before the game got underway and the half-filled stadium was almost all Simba fans, only the bravest Yanga fans would dared have paid to witness the Reds in such a fiesta mood.
The fans were well spirited with passion and in good voice leading up to the kick-off, they had worked through a noisy repertoire of chants and songs at the introduction of the players. The biggest cheers were unsurprisingly reserved for the appearance of Okwi, mercurial winger Mrisho Ngassa, who has been signed from Azam FC and for the re-turning creative midfielder Ramadhan Chombo 'Redondo'. Chombo has been re-signed as free player.
As well as lauding their players, Simba fans also sang songs mocking their archrivals Yanga. The atmosphere was intensified as the team took to the pitch. Every touch from a Simba player was greeted with a cheer. Okwi and Chombo started from the bench but Ngassa was in the starting line up.
Ngassa showed glimpses of huge talent with good link up with his new teammates and the diminutive winger made some brilliant runs down the flanks. Generally, Simba were impressive during the opening half and deservedly went ahead after 15 minutes thanks to Felix Sunzu's stunning effort from the edge of the box that skipped past Nairobi City Stars' keeper.
Simba defence, comprising Juma Nyosso, Haruna Shamte, Said Nassoro 'Chollo' and Amir Maftah, looked a little ring-rusty as City Stars occasionally threatened. However, Kaseja was rarely tested and Simba maintained their advantage into half-time break.
Paul Ngalema, Patrick Mbiyavanga, Abdallah Juma and Hamad Waziri replaced Maftah, Salum Kinje, Uhuru Selemani and Kaseja at the restart.
City Stars drew level shortly before the hour mark, capitalizing on a defensive blunder by Simba's back four and the Kenyans took the lead moments later after another defensive hitch and poor goalkeeping by substitute Waziri. Simba coach Milovan Cirkovic made a flurry of changes shortly after the hour mark, with Ngassa, Kazimoto, Sunzu and Moshi paving way for Danny Mrwanda, Amri Kiemba, Chombo and Kigi Makassy.
There was still time for City Stars to make sure that Simba are dead and buried when they made it 3-1 with ten minutes to go after yet another poor goalkeeping by Hamad. With little from their team to cheer about, Simba fans were now deadly silent while a handful of Yanga crowd lit up the stadium.