SIMBA last week went for a kill in their Champions League home encounter against AS Vita After registering a historic victory over such a high profile team from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In their first match away from home in Kinshasa, Simba beat the Congolese side by one goal. It was the first victory for Simba in Kinshasa against a Congolese side. During their last, but first participation in the group stages of the Champions League, Simba were thoroughly beaten by AS Vita when they went down by five goals to one.
But this time around, the Congolese side has had to swallow their own medicine. Simba have to date collected 13 points and they are leading in their group. This is the first time in Tanzania’s soccer history that a Tanzanian club is leading in the group of the Champions league and that speaks volumes.
The Tanzanian side will remain in the apex of the group whatever happens in their last, remaining match against 15 times winners of continental African clubs tournaments, Egypt’s Al Ahly in Cairo.
For instance, if Al Ahly win in their last match against Simba in their own backyard, the highest points they would register is 11, two points less than what Simba have bagged in their kitty. Both Simba and Al Ahly have already qualified for the quarter finals of the Champions League before they even play their last match in Cairo.
But a word of caution for Simba, they now need to protect their best players for the quarter final. The Cairo match is not very important for them even if they lose it. This is a match Simba need to try their players who have not had adequate playing time in the Champions League.
It is very important for Simba to start making good use of their reserve players now because the remaining matches are extremely difficult and tough. They also need to work on the discipline of one of their players, Morrison, who is very good on the pitch, but has disciplinary problems which going forward is likely to cost Simba very dearly.
The quarter final and other subsequent stages of the tournament, in case Simba go through, are tougher than what the club has had in the group stages. Simba need to know that much as they would be meeting a team that finished second in the group, but that team went through the Group stage, and that is the most important thing that Simba’s technical bench need to keep at the back of their minds.
And no group provides a good example and lesson for that than Simba’s own group in which 15 times winners of Champions League and Cup Winners Cup, Al Ahly, have finished second to them. What does this mean? The fact of the matter is that whoever meets Al Ahly in the quarter final will have to work extremely hard to take out the Egyptians.
That is why Simba will have to take their next stage of the tournament, the quarter final, extremely careful. In fact, I would be utterly surprised if they have not yet started preparing for the quarter final match already.
And preparing for the next stage of the tournament means making full use now of their second string team, throwing them in the premier league and other tough matches in readiness for assisting whoever is injured among the first fifteen players of the team.
Late in 1980s, when Simba held sway in soccer in this country, they invited Hafia FC from Conakry, Guinea which had then just won one of the continental clubs soccer tournaments. One interesting thing about the West African team was the fielding of their first eleven players. Five of their best players were benched at the start of the match. Simba scored first.
And by the time the two teams were going for their recess, Hafia had equalised. Then came the second half. Hafia brought in two first eleven players from the bench. Immediately they got onto the pitch they scored the second goal. Hafia now brought in the three remaining players. As they say, the rest is history, Simba were beaten 4-1.
The lesson we had on that day was that the best players come later, especially when you are preparing a team. The point is, you should give dirty work to players who are still learning the ropes. And after they have had enough of it, you bring in the best players to teach them how to play better soccer.
Little then did we realise that the then Simba management had learnt a lot from the massive defeat inflicted in their team. For no sooner had Hafia flown out of Dar for their sweet home, than they brought in a coach who had once trained Hafia by the name of Naby Kamara.
Kamara had a one year stint with Simba and by the time he left, Simba reigned in the league for five years. This is why I have repeatedly written in my sports columns the importance of bringing in top flight African and other clubs from outside the continent in order to learn from them how not to play soccer, but also soccer management.
You can only learn better soccer from the best soccer clubs and national soccer teams and not through residential training.