THE “romance” and “magic” of the cup is engulfing Mainland Tanzania, in itself “a great thing” in football. Feats of the “giants” being killed are being performed against “goliaths” by “minnows”.
Simba, Young Africans and Azam FC have all been dismissed from Azam Sports Federation Cup (ASFC). And, the embarrassing exit of giants has been labelled as a step towards transforming football standards in the country.
Indeed, these unexpected results also say something much less fairytale-ish about football, transcending from usual way, whereby champions of the specific league or tournament were known in advance. Yanga became the last victims to bid farewell the prestigious competition courtesy of a humiliating 4-2 post match penalties defeat from the debutants Singida United, who are lately viewed as the main contenders of the ASFC title.
Winner of the title lands a big deal of representing the country in CAF Confederation Cup. It was another brilliant performance shown by Singida United, who trailed from a goal down in the first half, equalised in the second stanza and finally ousted their brothers to cruise into the semi finals for the very first time.
No one can doubt the fact that with the quality of players and the level of investment that Singida United have done this season, they surely deserve to win a silverware no wonder the club has already revealed sense of determination and hungry to succeed in competitions they have traded like Mapinduzi Cup in Zanzibar, where they produced spirited fight for the championship.
United’s Dutch tactician Hans Van der Pluijm knows pretty well that the only way to end the season with the silverware in their empty cup shelf is to direct all the team’s energy towards winning their upcoming ASFC last four clash against JKT Tanzania, with both sides barely knowing each other as far as football is concerned.
Yanga saw their record chasing dream of becoming the first team to win ASFC title twice ending in thin air hence joined the class of other league giants namely Azam and Simba, who exited the contest earlier following penalty defeats from Mtibwa Sugar and ‘minnows’ Green Warriors respectively.
As it is currently the case, Yanga and Simba are the only two teams in the country to win ASFC trophy with each side winning once and for the first time, the ASFC title will be won by a new team from outside the city, what a history it is. Another unexpected outcome was recorded at Sokoine Stadium in Mbeya where the hosts Tanzania Prisons breathed fire as they failed to contain pressure imposed by their fellow soldiers JKT Tanzania, who comfortably booked a ticket into the semis thanks to a 2-0 triumph. It was also the first time for JKT Tanzania to trade into the competition, making their encounter against Singida United exceptional.
In all due respect, it is a good thing for teams other than Simba and Yanga to lift the title and see what they have in store as far as representing the country in continental football. Simba and Yanga have had much of representation in that stage and have always let the country down, save for the few occasions that they made it to the group stage and final. It is time now for other clubs to rise and above all, compete favourably at the top level. And, surely fans are enjoying the moment, where ‘Goliaths’ are turned into minnows and sometimes vice versa.
The minnows are slowly climbing again with Singida United, Stand United, JKT Tanzania and a relative giant Mtibwa Sugar all making it into the last four. But even if ‘minnow’ do go on and win the final – an outcome which is now more probable– there will still be an underlying sense that fairytales alone are not enough. They need to have higher ambitions, because the ASFC might have been up their street but they should clearly know that the CAF Confederation Cup is not limited to the elites only.
The continental second tier clubs competition is also open for ‘minnows’ who are ready to dine with the elites. It means an unprepared minnow(s) should be ready for trouncing. Now that the giants have been bruised and out of Confederation Cup spot, the cut throat battle will certainly shift to the Mainland Premier League title race, where there is only one ticket for CAF Champions League spot.
League leaders Simba, Yanga and Azam have open chances to be crowned champions at the end of the season but for that to be possible, much footwork on the ground is expected. Tanzania Prisons have an outside chance of lifting the league title. Regardless, the bruised solders now have one major target of making sure that they put it all on the league where miracles sometimes happen.
At this stage, maximization of three points is vital for the triple teams meaning that any unconvincing result, then you give room to your closest pursuers on the table to leapfrog you and probably miss the championship chase altogether. Simba, who lead the 16- team pack with 49 points, reopened the three point gap at the summit of the table thanks to a deserved 2-0 win over Njombe Mji in a match played at Saba Saba ground on Monday. The Msimbazi giants have now played 21 encounters without losing any of them.
Yanga are second with 46 points from 21 matches, while Azam sit on third slot with 44 points from 22 matches. Tanzania Prisons and Singida United both have 36 points to occupy fourth and fifth places whereas Mtibwa Sugar and Lipuli are tied on 27 points to accommodate 6th and 7th positions respectively. On eighth slot there is Mbeya City with 25 points so as Ruvu Shooting only to be separated by goal difference.
Ndanda and Stand United fills up 10th, 11th slots on the table while Kagera Sugar are on position 12th with 21 points in their bag. The going seems tough for Mwadui, Mbao, Njombe Mji and Majimaji who have gained 20, 19, 18 and 16 points to finish the last four positions and be prone to the relegation door.