- Published on Saturday, 15 September 2012 00:00
- Written by DAILY NEWS Reporter
- Hits: 476
THE battle for the coveted Mainland Premier League trophy begins in earnest today as both favourites and outsiders lock horns at various venues across the country.
The league’s defending champions, Simba, begin their title defence campaign by playing African Lyon at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam, while other title contenders and rivals, Yanga, will be away to Tanzania Prisons in Mbeya as the emerging giants, Azam FC, meet Kagera Sugar in Bukoba.
An encounter with African Lyon will be the first opportunity for Simba’s technical bench, led by Serbian, Milovan Cirkovic, to assess the squad’s response to the preparations it embarked upon for the past month. Cirkovic understands that nothing but victory over African Lyon will give his side morale boost ahead of what stands to be a tough campaign, thus, solid performance will be in need to realize the win.
Azam FC, which enjoyed terrific spell last season and went on to finish second behind Simba, will also be in search of an impressive start this season as it bids to command another successful campaign that could eventually end with a second stint in continental competitions.
Azam will have to put behind bitter memories of a 3-2 defeat to Simba in the Mainland Premier League’s curtain raiser, dubbed Charity Shield, played at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday, should the ice cream makers dream of enjoying a winning start in Kagera. Yanga, which finished third last season, has an equally tricky date with the promoted Tanzania Prisons, which will be buoyed by the home crowd as it entertains the Kagame Cup champions at the Sokoine Stadium.
Yanga had a rather less impressive campaign last year, in which the Jangwani Street side had to sweat for a third position and consequently miss out on continental competitions this season, thus, the team is expected to come out firing on ally cylinders against Prisons and grab crucial three points. Simba will be confronting African Lyon on the back of a morale boosting 3-2 victory over the last season’s Mainland Premier League runner-up, Azam FC, in the Charity Shield match at the National Stadium on Tuesday and a win today will certainly help to keep the Mainland champions’ spirit high.
But Simba should hardly expect an easy ride today considering that they will be up against unpredictable opponents. The youthful African Lyon is among Mainland Premier League sides that have the guts to spring surprises at a time everybody else has written them off and the team’s unpredictable nature stands to be in full swing against the Msimbazi Street side.
Despite losing a couple of key players including creative and hard working midfielders, Razack Khalfan and Suleiman Kassim Selembe, who have headed to another Mainland Premier League side, Tanga’s Coastal Union, African Lyon still has plenty of talented players at its disposal.
The likes of slippery winger, Benedicto Jacob, striker, Iddi Mbaga, and the newly recruited speedy goal getter, Adam Kingwande, are among players that African Lyon are expected to bank on in terrorizing Simba defence and guide the former to victory.
Jacob was among the best performers in the African Lyon squad last season, in which he linked well with versatile players like Mohamed Samatta, Sammy Kessy and Sino Augustine to trouble opposing teams’ defences and the diminutive winger is, again, expected to offer immense contribution to the team’s attempt to be a force to reckon with in the league.
Towering Nigerian defender, Salamusasa Obina, was impressive in Lyon’s defence throughout the last season and, having been retained in the squad for this season, he is, once again, expected to be a formidable force against Simba strikers.