DAR’S arch soccer rivals, Simba and Young Africans finally play today in the Charity Shield match at the sprawling National Stadium.
I have used the word finally, deliberately, because the two teams and Simba fans in particular, started playing this particular match, verbally, over two weeks ago! They say habits die hard, but for me I would add the word, bad habits die hard for the simple reason that they form part of what should be discarded.
In the words of Simba fans, even if they fielded their second string today, they would beat their arch rivals hands down. This reminds me of that English proverb, which runs, If wishes were horses, beggars would ride them.
If you listened, carefully, to Simba fans’ narratives, one of the reasons why they believe they will beat Yanga today is because the latter did not do their homework in their registration exercise. What Simba fans are saying is however, not new in the Tanzanian world of soccer.
In fact, we experienced the same kind of talk not in a distant past, when many self-styled soccer pundits believed that Yanga had a better team compared to Simba had. The tragedy is that this is what Tanzania’s brand of soccer is made of, talk, talk, talk and nothing, but talk.
Yes, we play our football through our mouths; not on the pitch, and that is why we have managed to harvest nothing, but successive defeats regionally and internationally. Since Simba started talking about beating Yanga today, their counterparts have remained mum.
Indeed, how can they talk when Simba have already said that they are going to win today? This winning talk reminds me of what happened late in 1973 at Nyamagana Stadium, in Mwanza, when the two met in a nail-biting encounter.
Early in the year, a youthful Simba side, mostly made up of Dar es Salaam secondary schools students, brought to an end Yanga’s five year dominance when they edged the Jangwani Street club by one goal to nil which was scored by Haidari Muchacho.
It happened after Michael Sentala had ducked the ball to trick Yanga’s custodian, hence allowing Haidari behind him to head the ball into the yawning net. Overnight, the one goal victory turned Simba into instant celebrities, got drunk in the process, and it is the same drunkenness that would later come to haunt them in the Nyamagana match.
Simba’s management and fans strongly believed that nothing was going to stop them from handing their arch rivals another defeat, this time in the rocky city and away from Dar es Salaam. Having been beaten in Dar es Salaam a few months back, Yanga, were as usual mum, allowing their counterparts to continue with their talking football.
Of course, Simba scored first through Adam Sabu. But about 20 minutes to time, Yanga did not only equalize, but they went on to win the match by 2-1. But before Yanga scored the equaliser, something happened that would, for many years, be considered by Simba fans as sinister.
Their right winger from Iringa, Saad Ally, was injured in a clash with a Yanga player and stretchered off the field to Bugando Hospital unconscious. Saad recovered later in hospital, but that did not stop the talking to continue, this time revolving around dark powers that robbed Simba of victory.
Since then, things have somewhat changed, with the two clubs believing more on science, if you like, than dark powers. In fact, nothing would later help Simba, after that Mwanza defeat, in learning the importance of working on the pitch rather than through the mouth than the Nyamagana encounter.
After the defeat, Simba players returned to Dar es Salaam in groups. Immediately they were back home, they went to work and in 1974, they would go on to become the first Tanzanian club to reach the semifinals of the continental club championship.
And this brings me to the theme of my column today, namely, the need for Simba and Tanzanians in general to work for their success, rather than engage in empty talk. The Hehes have a saying which goes, Umulomo si kitegulo, which can be translated as empty talk is not known to have brought any tangible results.
In fact, my friend and former school mate at Highlands Secondary School, in Iringa, Zacharia HansPoppe, can bear me out, as far as the foregoing saying is concerned. Yes, Tanzanians need to change by getting away from empty dreams expressed through word of the mouth and instead we need to allow hard work to take precedence.
Talking victory aside, the match today will give Tanzanians a sense of what to expect in this season’s Vodacom Premier League. What is however, more important is that soccer fans from both sides of the divide would, at the end of the match, be in a position to judge for themselves whether they have a team that can take them far, not only in the VPL, but also in the continental clubs tournaments.
The latter is more important because we have for too long failed, as a nation, to do what even upstarts in the game have succeeded. I have in mind countries like Zambia and South Africa which have done extremely well in the last few years.
As we all know by now, both nations have won once each the Africa Cup of Nations, Afcon.
And at the club level, South Africa, which returned to the international sporting fold of democratic and non-racial states in 1994, have won the continent’s version of the Champions League in soccer, 1996, through the Soweto based Orlando Pirates and the CAF Winners in 2016, through Pretoria’s Mamelodi Sundowns or the Brazilians as it is popularly known by its avid fans, a team that is owned by mining billionaire magnate, Patrice Motsepe.