16 February 2013

Tanzania: Continental Glory Smile At Azam

STEWART Hall's Azam FC join continental- tier-clubs as they make their debut to the CAF Confederation Cup with a tricky fixture against literally light weight side, South Sudan's Al Nasir Juba at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam Saturday evening.

This game will open a new chapter for the city tycoons, who have less than ten years of existence but have already shown the sign of going places in football circles. Azam was promoted to the top flight football in 2008 and they have the right to smile their way to their first ever Continental campaign.

They have invested heavily in terms of scouting for quality players, youth development programmes and infrastructures. The Saturday's first leg of the preliminary round of Confederation Cup will be handled by four Kenyan referees. The quartet will also be in charge of the second leg match between the debutants.

The four are: Peter Kiereini, Gilbert Cheruiyot, Anthony Ogwayo and Davies Omweno. Omweno and Ogwayo are FIFA-accredited referees, while Cheruiyot and Kiereini have been approved by the same institution but as assistants. Hall has got a healthy looking squad at his disposal after a relatively active mini-transfer window in which they recruited a host of players from inside and outside the country.

Ugandan striker Brian Umony, Kenyans Humphrey Mieno and Jockins Atudo have added experience, creativity and strength in his squad. And, key to Azam's quest for a perfect start to the campaign will be the attacking quartet of Khamis Mcha, Ivory Coast striker Kipre Tchetche, John Bocco and newly signed Ugandan ace Brian Umony.

They will all compete for a starting role and behind them will be creative midfielder Salum Aboubakar 'Sure Boy', Mieno and sturdy Abdi Kassim. Azam will have to try and utilize home advantage and play an attacking game, which they have been showcasing in their recent league games.

The omens bode well with Azam, who are apparently in fine spirits, having won all their three opening matches of the second round of the Mainland Premier League. Azam is ready for the match and assistant Coach, Kalimangonga Ongala believes that an outright attacking game will settle matters today.

The ice cream makers are well equipped to take the game to their opponents all through the evening. "We need to go out there and get early goals. We cannot afford to sit back but that does not mean we will be reckless and take great risk. If we do not get early goals we will be patient until the right time," he said.

Ongala confirmed that Bocco, who has been out of action for the past month is fit for the match. Al Nasri will also be hoping to cause an upset in the match today to put themselves in a better position to make it to the next round of the continental second-tier championship. The return leg tie is set for a fortnight later in Juba. Mainland champions Simba will be at the same venue tomorrow to confront Recreativo do Libolo of Angola, in the first leg, preliminary round match of the CAF Champions League.

The Msimbazi Reds spent this week in Arusha busy preparing for the encounter.

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