ON Wednesday, this week, Simba hammered Mtibwa Sugar 5-0 in a match staged at the sprawling Benjamin William Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam.
I’m quite sure, the match result was a major surprise for many soccer fans in the country given the stature of the Morogoro-based club which is arguably one of the best teams in the Vodacom Premier League.
Mtibwa Sugar’s coach was quick to remind the public that his team had played against one of the best clubs not only in Tanzania, in Africa having just reached the quarterfinal of the Champions League.
It is however, my hope that Simba do not take their victory very seriously to the point of resting on their laurels. They ought to note that, they played against a club that has not had the kind of match practice they have themselves had.
Indeed, Simba’s present form cannot be compared to any team in the local league because of the kind of teams they have been playing against in the Champions League, teams some of which have won the Champions League between one and nine times. But this is not to say that there is no team in the Premier League that can draw or even beat Simba, far from it.
The point is, on the paper, Simba are presently better prepared than other teams in the league on account of the kind of exercise they have gone through. As we all know, Simba have played a total of six matches against some of the best teams in Africa, namely, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Sudan (Khartoum).
They have played twice at home and away against nine time Champions League winners, Al Ahly; they have played twice against one time Champions League winner; Sudan’s El Merreikh and they also played twice against one of the regular participant beyond group stages of continental clubs soccer tournaments, AS Vita from the DRC.
In short, Simba have had the opportunity of playing six grueling matches against three of the best teams in Africa, teams which have also maintained top form in the last twenty years as demonstrated by their continuous participation in continental clubs soccer tournaments.
Simba have also had the opportunity of playing against the foregoing three teams in three different atmospheric situations, in Cairo, Khartoum and Kinshasa. And out of the six matches, they have only lost one game and drawn one, a no mean achievement for a team that because the first Tanzanian club in history to top a Champions League group.
For those who listened carefully to what the Mtibwa Sugar coach said in the postmatch commentary, he also spoke of his team having played against a well, prepared and drilled team and that is the subject of my column today.
For frequent readers of my columns would note that I have times and again noted in my columns the importance of adding friendly matches against top flight clubs and national soccer teams to whatever residential training we design and organize for our clubs and national soccer teams.
I have repeatedly laid accent on the importance of subjecting our clubs and national soccer teams to top flight friendly matches, locally and internationally, because they help their respective technical benches basically in two areas.
One, they help technical bench in assessing whether or not the players have grasped the kind of training they have been provided in a certain given period in terms of techniques and tactics.
Secondly and more importantly, exposure to such top flight friendly matches help technical benches to note not only residual problems, but also whether or not their players are fit enough to meet the kind of challenges likely to be presented by their opponents in a competitive match.
One of the problems we have had in this country has been throwing our teams to the deep end of the tunnel while fully knowing that our teams have not been prepared for such competitive soccer tournaments. Times without number, we have failed to realize and appreciate one important thing, and that is, preparation of any soccer team under the sun is incomplete without subjecting such a team to quality trial matches.
Top flight friendly matches against a soccer team that is preparing for a competitive continental tournament help the technical bench of such a team whether or not the residential training they have had was successful or otherwise.
When I was working for Radio Channel Africa (which operated under the South African Broadcasting Corporation SABC) at the Auckland Park in Johannesburg from 1994 to early 1997, I had the opportunity of witnessing three major continental and global victories which were registered by the new South Africa.
The first victory was registered by the country’s national rugby team, the Springbok, popularly referred to by South Africans as Mabokoboko. Then came Bafana Bafana’s (national soccer team) victory when they lifted the first Afcon, after beating Tunisia in the final by two goals to nil.
The third victory was registered by Orlando Pirates when they registered another South Afrian first after winning the Champions League. Bafana Bafana won Afcon because the team had been thoroughly prepared for the tournament. They had played 65 friendly matches in eight months before they took part in the Afcon tournament which was hosted by South Africa.
In the 65 matches, Bafana Bafana played against former Fifa World Cup winners, Argentina and Germany and all former Afcon winners, excluding Nigeria.
It is no wonder that, they went on to win the Afcon. In conclusion, Simba are doing well, firstly because of the quality of the players they have, and secondly because they had well prepared themselves both for the local league and the champions league.
In a nutshell, Simba have demonstrated to Tanzanians what I have repeatedly written on my columns over the importance of combining residential training with adequate friendly matches.