Why winning at home and away is critical
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IN order to win any soccer league under the sun, including of course, the Vodacom Premier League, a team must win in each and every league match.

What winning in each and every league match means being able to win at home and away from home. But as we all know, that can only be realized if a team has well prepared themselves for each and every match that come their way.

Again, good preparation is not enough for a team to win their matches. The team needs to also play with the same zeal and commitment. Mere good preparation does not win a team or game, especially if players don’t put their all in the match or game.

Players putting their all in a match or game mean each and every player playing for one another, playing as a team. The problem with the league is that you slip in one match, and you may be done for good.

That explains why a team needs to take each and every match very seriously, regardless of the level of soccer of the opponent. If you listen to players and team managers speak before or after the match in the world’s leading leagues like the English, Spanish or Bundesliga.

You would always come across utterances that run; ‘taking a match or game, one at a time.’ Such players or team managers make the foregoing statements because they don’t like to be rushed into commenting or making conclusions in matches they are yet to play.

They will always comment on the following game, and even then, they will always be very cautious, refraining from saying that they are going to win the game. They talk of taking one game at a time because they need to win that game before they think of the next game in line. You cannot talk about winning another game when you are not yet through the first game. And, talking about winning matches, the situation usually becomes more serious if a team is playing away from home, in a ‘foreign territory.’ A ‘foreign territory’ may mean another country or a region or place within a given country.

The difficulty in such circumstances is usually brought about by the fact that the host, unlike the visiting team, is usually armed with one extra player in the form of their home fans. If you look around the world, including Tanzania, it’s extremely difficult to play against a host and away from home. More often than not, we have witnessed nondescript teams turning tables against visiting, powerful opponents.

And the simple reason for that is because they played in their own backyard, in their own familiar ground and before their own fans. This is exactly what happened over the weekend when Dar es Salaam’s Simba Sports Club were walloped 2-1 by Kagera Sugar away from home.

S i m b a who had been leading in the VPL lost not only the match, but also their three points and the top seat. The defeat, which was actually expected, gave their arch soccer rivals, Young Africans, the opportunity of re-capturing the driving seat they had lost a few weeks ago.

I have said Simba’s defeat was expected because Kagera Sugar are known to be a tough side, not only at home but also away from home. In fact, that also explains why Simba had decided to travel to Kagera Region well before the scheduled match. They had wanted to acclimatize themselves before the match. Had they not done that, I’m quite sure their defeat would have more than doubled. Young Africans will now have to increase the tempo of their game if they want to retain the VPL crown.

Simba fans have been livid with anger. But I wish they knew the strength of their team. The point is, they simply need to accept the defeat and move on. About five matches are now left before the end of the league.

But both Simba and Young Africans will have to win all their remaining matches if they want to place themselves in better position to win the coveted trophy. However, between the two, Young Africans are more likely to do better in the remaining league matches than their arch rivals. And the reason for that is that Young Africans would be playing most of their remaining matches at home. Therefore, any further slip by either side in the remaining matches would mean nothing, but bidding the league farewell until next season.

And, that would be very painful, especially for a club like Simba who have failed to win the league in the last four years. Young Africans are already celebrating their arch rivals’ slip.

They seem to know what it means to lose a match at such a crucial stage. But one hopes that such celebration does not end up crossing the Rubicon as that could equally spell disaster to them.

The point is, the league is still open to either of the two teams, hence the dire need for either team to remain focused.

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