Kampala — TANZANIA Mainland soccer team, Kilimanjaro Stars, head coach Kim Poulsen has suggested that DR Congo-based stars Mbwana Samatta and Thomas Ulimwengu still hold the key to his side's success at the ongoing CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup.
Kilimanjaro Stars' campaign at the regional championship got off to a flying start when they cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win over Sudan in a Group B match at Nelson Mandela Stadium in Kampala Uganda on Sunday.
Despite the victory which came courtesy of a John Bocco brace, Poulsen underscored the importance of the missing TP Mazembe duo, Samatta and Ulimwengu and apparently pleaded with the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) to make sure the two promising strikers are released by the Congolese team and join the Stars for the rest of the campaign.
Samatta and Ulimwengu, who played for the national soccer team, Taifa Stars, during the international friendly match against Kenya about a fortnight ago, have so far failed to honour Kilimanjaro Stars call after the DR Congo side refused to grant them permission.
The duo's absence, however, did not prevent Kilimanjaro Stars dismiss the Falcons in a victory that put Poulsen's boys second in their group thanks to Burundi's superior goal difference, after the later thrashed Somalia 5-1 earlier on the day.
The Dane said the duo could prove key for the Mainland outfit in their bid to regain the regional trophy, which the team won last in 2010, but conceded he is prepared to use the players available in the squad. With the absence of Samatta and Ulimwengu, Bocco remains the only proven out-andout striker in the Kilimanjaro Stars team.
The towering Azam striker was clinical against the Sudanese side and Poulsen will be keeping fingers crossed as he maintains his goal-scoring form and stays fit throughout the campaign. Poulsen noted that should TP Mazembe maintain their position over Samatta and Ulimwengu, he will have no option but play burgeoning attacking midfielder Simon Msuva into a striking role.
Poulsen would at least be pleased with his side's offensive play, as they looked well on fire, scoring two goals inside the opening half an hour and could have bagged a few more had it not been his side's profligacy after the interval. Bocco's brace was not only enough for the Kilimanjaro Stars to lay their mark as genuine contenders for the regional silverware, it also moved him level with Selemani Ndikumana, who struck twice in Burundi's 5-1 win over Somalia earlier on.
But it was mercurial winger Mrisho Ngassa, who was unarguably the star of Taifa Stars' offensive show after the Simba player created both of Bocco's goals. The diminutive winger was a constant thorn in Sudan's side as he tormented the Falcons with his slippery runs, pace and dribbling skills.
Ngassa's fast pace and good crosses from either flank made him stand out. Kilimanjaro Stars' performance raised the spirits of Tanzanian fans who have travelled all the way to Uganda to support their team. A group of 120 fans crossed from the neighbouring Kagera region to join hundreds of Tanzanians based in Uganda to cheer up their heroes against Sudan.
"We love our team and that is why we came all the way to Kampala to see it playing and our presence (at the Namboole Stadium) has paid off because the boys played well and came out with the win," said Ernest Nyabo, the chairman of Bukoba Veterans.
"We're very impressed with the link-up between Mrisho Ngassa and John Bocco, their combination up front bore fruits," he added. Kilimanjaro Premium Lager Brand Manager, George Kavishe, also hailed Mainland's drubbing of Sudan but warned the players to keep on working hard to ensure they win all remaining matches and reach the final.
"We have strong belief in Kilimanjaro Stars... we're waiting for them to bring the trophy home. As sponsors, we can only pledge our continuing support towards them so that they give us victory," Kilimanjaro Stars, which is sponsored by Tanzania Breweries Limited (TBL) under its Kilimanjaro Premium Lager brand, will be looking to seal a quarterfinal berth against Group B leaders Burundi when the two sides clash on Wednesday.