Tanzania: Mapinduzi Final - Simba's Test for Champions League

TANZANIA 'S biggest derby, which is usually held in Dar es Salaam has, this time around, been moved to Zanzibar and will today witness Dar's arch soccer rivals, Simba and Young Africans squaring up against each other in the Mapinduzi Cup final.

Young Africans reached the final after edging out Dar's colleagues, Azam FC after winning 5-4 on penalties, and the Premier League reigning champions, Simba reached the final after disposing off Namungo FC by 2-1.

Prestige aside, this match is more important to Simba than their arch soccer rivals Young Africans because it will help them not only in gauging their strength but it would also help as their training match for the Group stages of the Champions League.

Simba qualified for the Group stage of the continent's elite club championship after thrashing their Zimbabwean counterparts, Platinum FC by four goals to nil one barely a few days ago.

I have said today's final is more important to Simba than Young Africans because the latter will provide them with a perfect Group stage opportunity in terms of pressure, technique and tactics, the kind of electric atmosphere that Simba will face in all their six matches against the three African clubs.

Simba's group has four teams, which are Simba from Tanzania, El Merreikh from North Sudan, Al Ahly from Egypt, who are also Champions League newly crowned champions, and Vita FC from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The kind of electric atmosphere Simba will face in the champions league, especially away from home is similar to what they will face today when they take on Young Africans which has won the country's premier league more than any other Tanzanian soccer club.

Simba have always had problems when playing against Young Africans who have always been more relaxed, and that is the kind of atmosphere that Simba will have to go through as part of their preparations for their Group stage matches.

This season's Group stage is not very much different from what Simba had two years ago when they failed to get to the last 16. The only new comer in this season's group is North Sudan's El Merreikh.

The two other teams, Al Ahly and Vita were also present last time and instead of El Merreikh, the group had an Algerian club. After the announcement of Simba's group, Simba fans were understandably very much disappointed as Vita FC and Al Ahly are teams that stopped Simba from proceeding to the last 16.

And the best way for Simba to advance further is to win matches against the so called big clubs. For once Simba starts beating Al Ahly in their own backyard and in Dar es Salaam, CAF will stop pairing Simba against Al Ahly.

In 1969 and 1970, Young Africans were twice paired against Ghana's Asante Kotoko and the latter went through, on both occasions, first through a toss of coin and in the second outing, through a victory in the play-off held in Ethiopia's capital city, Addis Ababa.

This was reaped in 1974 when Simba reached the quarter final of the Champions League. Their opponents were a Ghanaians, Hearts of Oak. The latter were beaten 2-1 in their own backyard and drew 0-0 in Dar. Since then, Ghanaian sides have never been paired against Tanzanian clubs in the Champions League.

Therefore, to stop the Arabs from pairing their teams against Tanzanian clubs, our clubs need to beat them not only in Dar but also in their own backyard, which is quite possible. Indeed, if Simba beat Zamalek and destroyed their party in 1996, there is no reason why the same Simba should not beat Al Ahly in their own backyard.

One year ago, Al Ahly were walloped by five goals to nil in South Africa by Mamelodi Sundowns, best known as the Brazilians. Al Ahly recruited Mamelodi Sundowns' coach, Pitso Mosemane who a few weeks ago steered Al Ahly to Champions League crown after beating Zamalek in an all Egyptian pairing.

Therefore Tanzanian clubs should not be disappointed when they are paired against tough opponents. They should instead plot their downfalls and such pairings would become history. On the paper, in today's match Simba may have an edge over their opponents.

But experience shows that as is always usual with Dar derbies, it usually does not work that way! This is because anything can happen when the two teams meet in their derbies.

Although derbies are not used for training players; Simba need to use this derby in trying good, local players, at least two, who they can use in the group stages as they have done with earlier matches in the Mapinduzi Cup tournament.

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