A NEW history beckons for the country's football with a possibility of an all Tanzanian final when Mainland's Kilimanjaro Stars and Zanzibar Heroes respectively face holders Uganda Cranes and Kenya in the semi-finals of the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup.
Kim Poulsen's Kilimanjaro Stars will be attempting to reach their second semi-final in three years with an arduous task against hosts and defending champions, the Uganda Cranes under the Namboole Stadium floodlights, Kampala, Uganda this evening.
The mouth-watering Cranes-Stars showdown will be preceded with the first semi-final duel between Zanzibar Heroes and the Harambee Stars of Kenya at the same venue.
Both Kilimanjaro Stars and Uganda Cranes have shown an excellent display of game in their previous matches and with both teams equipped with star players and playing in such an important match, it would really be a treat for football fans all over the world.
The Cranes are still undefeated in the tournament. They beat Ethiopia 2-0 to book a slot in the last four, which was their fourth consecutive win and clean sheet of the tournament. While on the other side Kilimanjaro Stars have managed to qualify for semis while producing a fantastic blend of football-- swift passing game.
The Mainland boys won two out of their three group stage matches. They launched their campaign with a 2-0 win over Sudan, slipped to a 1-0 defeat to Burundi in a match they largely dominated.
The Stars, then, bounced back strongly to sweep aside Somalia 7-0 in their last group match and comfortably beat Rwanda 2-0 in the quarter-finals to stroll into the semis. Simba playmaker Mwinyi Kazimoto who is the heart and engine of the Stars midfield showed his class and temperament against Rwanda.
"He is a very intelligent player and a great play maker. He knows where and when to put the ball and he is very hardworking," Poulsen spoke of Kazimoto. Kazimoto assisted both goals as Kilimanjaro Stars beat Amavubi and the Ugandans will have to stop him and his Simba teammate Amri Kiemba from making dazzling passes and creating goal-scoring chances.
It is the attacking threats of Mrisho Ngassa, John Bocco and Simon Msuva, however, who are set to test the Uganda's water-tight defence as they seek to avenge for Kilimanjaro Stars' 3-1 loss to the Cranes when the two teams clashed in the semi-finals of the tournament last year.
Uganda Cranes coach Bobby Williamson believes his side is the best in the tournament, but should be wary of Kilimanjaro Stars as the in-form Tanzanians pose a serious threat to his team's quest for a back to back regional gory.
"No disrespect to the other teams in this tournament but one thing I know we have the best team in the tournament. I don't think anyone can beat us and we don't fear anyone," Bobby said after the 2-0 quarter-final win against Ethiopia. On the epic semi against Kilimanjaro Stars, Bobby said:
"Tanzania is a great team with very talented players. They play good football and I believe it will be a very entertaining match to watch." The first semi-final will see Mainland brothers from Zanzibar take on Kenya with the latter's head coach Salum Nassor optimistic of over his team's chance of overcoming the Kenyans.
Nassor was an ecstatic man seeing his side stroll to the semis and hailed his players' great fighting spirit and expects them to put in another resolute show today.
Nassor would want his team to repeat the feat achieved in 1995, the last year the islanders won the Senior Challenge Cup, in the same country, Uganda. Harambee Stars Coach James Nandwa was a little bit disappointed with the team's overall performance despite a 1-0 quarterfinal win over Malawi and will demand an improved performance against the Islanders.