Dar es Salaam — After a month-long recess, Vijana have started preparations for this year's Dar es Salaam Regional Basketball League.
The league, which features top basketball teams in Dar es Salaam, roars into life next month.
City Bulls - as Vijana are fondly referred to by basketball fans - will be looking to retain the RBA League title when the league starts.
In an interview with The Citizen yesterday, Vijana coach Arshafu Harun revealed that they have set high ambitions for the upcoming season - top priority among others; to win the title again.
"We started training on Monday, and the players are responding well to my instructions during our training sessions," Harun said.
He added: "To win the league, it requires mental strength and winning attitude consistently. And that is what we (coaching staff) are trying to make the players understand."
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"It is definitely going to be a long season, and we must be ready for the challenge."
For his part, Stephano Mshana, one of Vijana's key players, said their rivals are aware of the City Bulls' prowess.
"We want to put up a stellar showing in this year's league and see to it that we win the silverware," he said.
According to the league organisers - Dar es Salaam Basketball - the men's category will involve 16 teams, whereas the women's category consists of eight outfits.
The men's teams include defending champions Vijana, Savio, JKT, Mabibo Bullet, Pazi, Oilers, ABC, JKT Mgulani, Ukonga Kings, Chui, Kurasini Heat, Police and DTB.
DB Lionesses, Vijana Queens, Jeshi Stars, JKT Stars, Ukonga Queens and Oilers Princes are among teams that will compete in the women's category.
In last year's league, Vijana claimed the title with a 53-51 win against Savio in the final.
The women's top honour went to Vijana Queens, whose coach Kabiola Shomari, says the reigning champions have all it takes to retain their RBA League title.
-holders are in high spirits, raring to perform impressively this year.
Shomari predicted a tough league but remained optimistic that it would produce positive results for the title-holders.
He named JKT Stars and DB Lionesses as among teams that boast highly skilled players, a situation he said might bring stiff opposition to his girls.
"After the RBA League, we will focus on the National Basketball League (NBL) to be held in Dar es Salaam, and later the Union Cup whose venue is yet to be disclosed," she disclosed.
/////el Arteta hailed Arsenal's "hungry" youngsters after Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah fired their side into the FA Cup fifth round with a 2-1 win against Bournemouth on Monday.
Arteta turned to youth at Dean Court and Saka, Nketiah and Joe Willock repaid the Arsenal manager's faith with influential displays that secured a trip to third-tier Portsmouth.
Saka gave Arsenal an early lead as the 18-year-old full-back bagged his third goal of the season with a superb strike.
Nketiah got the second before the interval to ensure Arteta took another step towards emulating his FA Cups triumph as an Arsenal player in 2014 and 2015.
Sam Surridge got one back for Bournemouth in the closing minutes, but it was too late to salvage a replay.
"I'm very pleased. Always tough to come here and win, we've done it with a young team as well," Arteta said.
"I have a lot of faith in them. I think they are developing really well. They are willing and hungry and will only get better."
Languishing in 10th place in the Premier League after failing to win any of their last three games, this was a welcome boost for Arteta as Arsenal built on their hard-fought draw at Chelsea last week. It was Arsenal's third win in eight matches under Arteta in all competitions, with just one defeat in that run.
It was not all plain sailing by the seaside for Arteta, who added: "We scored two fantastic goals, but after that we became a little bit sloppy and I didn't like that very much."
Arteta's first match in charge of Arsenal was a 1-1 Premier League draw at Bournemouth in December, but his team looked far more accomplished this time, even without several key players. With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang still suspended, 18-year-old striker Gabriel Martinelli started for Arsenal.
Martinelli had scored in Arsenal's past two Premier League games to reach 10 goals for the season. But the Brazilian isn't just a poacher and he showed his creative vision as Arsenal made a perfect start in the fifth minute.
As a 22-pass Arsenal move approached an eye-catching crescendo, Willock's surge opened up the Bournemouth defence.
Willock picked out Martinelli, who deftly moved the ball onto Saka when a more selfish player would have shot and he smashed a thunderous drive into the roof of the net from an acute angle.
- Bournemouth outgunned -
Arteta had made five changes from the Chelsea match, with Nketiah making his first Arsenal start since January last year against Blackpool in the FA Cup.
Nketiah was recently recalled from a loan spell at second-tier Leeds over concerns he wasn't playing enough, but the 20-year-old showed his potential in the 26th minute as he doubled Arsenal's lead.
Unable to contain Willock and Saka, Bournemouth were carved open as the midfielder's pass found the defender in acres of space on the left.
Saka's cross into the six-yard box was perfect for Nketiah and he slotted in his first Arsenal goal since May.
Completely outclassed for the first 30 minutes, Bournemouth finally had a sight of goal when Harry Wilson's volley was saved by Emiliano Martinez.
Arteta's men didn't have it all their own way in the second half and Martinez took out his own player when he clattered into Shkodran Mustafi in a bid to catch a cross.
Mustafi had to be stretchered off as a result of the clash and Arteta said: "We'll have to assess tomorrow but when Mustafi has to come off normally it is not a good sign."
The hapless Martinez nearly gifted Bournemouth a goal moments later when he missed with his attempt to punch clear, but Jack Simpson headed just wide of the empty net.
Surridge punished sloppy defending to tap in from Simon Francis' cross deep into stoppage time, but Arsenal's rookies held on.