SIMBA begin their CAF Champions League group campaign against Algerian side JS Saoura at the 60,000 capacity National Stadium in Dar es Salaam today, upbeat to snatch maximum points.
It will be their first assignment of the competition’s group stages of which, the club has already insisted that pocketing three points in home matches is their priority.
Simba are back in the group stage after 15 years and will unleash regular scorers Clatous Chama Meddie Kagere, Emmanuel Okwi and John Bocco to tear apart the Algerian visitors.
Simba booked a place in the group stage for the first time in 15 years, and are now looking for the possible chance to qualify for the last eight at the middle of last edition continental finalists Al Ahly and AS Vita.
Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, Tulia Ackson is expected to be the chief guest during the match.
The Deputy Speaker will lead hundreds of thousands of Simba and football fans to cheer up the home team in a match set to kick off at 4pm.
Going into the match, Head Coach Patrick Aussems feels that being an underdog in group D of the CAF champions League was an advantage to his charges.
The 19 times Mainland champions’ Belgian trainer said that Simba are seen as underdogs in their group but it is the advantage for them as they need to play well to win their games, especially at home.
“Our opponents might see us as underdogs but that is the advantage for us. Our first target was to reach the group phase but now we need to fight and see what we can do in our group,” said Aussems.
The Belgian trainer insists that the support they have from their fans and the commitment of the players is the key to Saturday game and other group phase outings.
“We are not going to change our approach. We have scored 12 goals in the last four games, that’s our strength, and we will continue to play that way, we believe that our opponents will be in trouble,” he added.
Ghanaian import, James Kotei said it is their advantage to start the group phase games at home, and they will fight to win the Saturday fixture so as to get crucial three points before travelling to Kinshasa a week later to play AS Vita.
“It was a good warm up in Zanzibar. We played three competitive games in Mapinduzi Cup and I believe all the players are fit now to compete on Saturday,” he said.
“The most important thing is to win our first game. We understand that all teams in the group phase are good but we play at home. We will continue with our playing style,” said Kotei who joined Simba in 2016.
Defender, Sergie Paschal Wawa said they will take the advantage of playing at home to get three points on Saturday.
“It is advantage that we play our first group phase game at home, and with the big support of our fans we will work much harder to get three points,” he said.
To reach into the group stages, Simba dumped out Eswatini’s side Mbabane Swallows in preliminary round with an 8-aggregate win, before they saw off a challenge from Nkana FC of Zambia following a 4-3 aggregate win in the first round.
Meanwhile, Minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports Harrison Mwakyembe has called on Tanzanians to show patriotism, by flocking the National Stadium in the city to support and motivate Simba to win the match, reports Tuzo Mapunda.