IT is another derby day in Dar Es Salaam today, perhaps the biggest derby not only in the region, but also in the continent, especially if you consider the age of the two soccer clubs, Simba and Young Africans, since they were first established over a century ago by soldiers who had taken part in the First World War.
Only Young Africans have continued to retain their old name. Simba is a new name that was christened to the club in the early 1970s to replace its old name of Sunderland which it had been known after a former English premier club. Why did the red-shirted club change its name from the name of the English club’s Sunderland to Simba?
It followed a pressure from the government through the then ruling political party’s Commissar, Moses Nnauye’s call on local clubs to change their names from foreign to local names, and the name Sunderland was replaced by Simba.
Since those arguably very good, old days, when derbies were really derbies in every sense of the word, days when houses and sometimes, even wives and girls friends, changed hands after victory and defeats, a lot of water has gone under the bridge.
During derbies in those very good, old days, it was an anathema for a player to move from one club to another! If one went against the unwritten rule, he would for days require to move around the Haven of Peace literally with a body guard or two.
And there were classic crossings that included police officer, Gilbert Mahinya when he crossed from Simba and settled at Young Africans and later, Maulid Dilunga moving briefly from Yanga to Simba and later Simba and national goalkeeper, Athuman Mambosasa moving briefly from Simba to Yanga.
Tensions, during such derbies were extremely high and fans had to sit in the stadium in the right place to in order to avoid any problem. A former minister for sports was slapped hard when he jumped in jubilation after Simba had scored a goal against their arch rivals. His mistake?
He was sitting in Young Africans’ realm. During those days, it was difficult to know which side belonged to which club because fans put on their usual attire. The only time the two clubs came together was when either of the clubs lost a fan, player or one of its leaders through death.
Otherwise the premises of either club was a no go area to fans, members and leaders from the other side. But today, only the sitting arrangement remains. Other strictness has, with time thawed. A player today can make it known, publicly, that he wants to move to Simba or Yanga and nothing will happen to him.
Present derbies have become a pale of what they used to be and there many factors which has led to this, one being the composition of players. During the good, old days, composition of players on both sides of the ‘football’ divide was all Tanzanians. But today, as we all know, that is no longer the same.
Both clubs are dominated by foreign players both in terms of composition and dominance in the game. Indeed, more often than not, victories in present day derbies are secured through foreign players. The role of local players is no longer apparent on account of poor standards, a result of the way we prepare our players, from the streets.
In the good, old days, derbies were show-times for locally produced stars. Sunderland and Young Africans and later Simba and Young Africans used derbies to display their locally made stars, who included players like Kibadeni, Sunday Manara, Leodegar Tenga, Mombasasa and before the foregoing generation, both sides had players like Arthur Mambete, Gilbert Mahinya, Omar Kapera, Awadh Gersan, Juma Bomba, Kitenge, Kitwana Manara in the goal, Emmanuel Mbelle etc.
But there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting foreign players. But both clubs need to start working extremely hard and fast at that, in producing their own brand of local players who would be as good as foreign players. And this can only be done through soccer academies both clubs are very much capable of establishing.
For until and unless they do that, and now, our present day derbies would lose not only their meaning, but it would also become difficult for our national soccer team, Taifa Stars which as we all know is presently starless, to produce a winning team. Now when all is said and done, let us review today’s game.
For a start, it extremely important for both sides, and in particular Simba who are expected to take on South Africans, Kaiser Chiefs in the Champions League quarter final after today’s game. Failure to beat Young Africans today is bound to give a dent in their preparations for the next game against the South Africans whose colours is more or less similar to those of their arch soccer rivals.
For Simba, winning today’s match would also strengthen their position both in terms of prestige and points in the on-going Premier League. For Young Africans, victory for them today is extremely important, especially in recouping their lost confidence suffered in their last matches through defeat and draws.
They badly need to win this match today in order to rekindle their efforts to recapture the league title they lost over three years ago. However, if past history is anything to go by. Simba need to take today’s derby extremely careful. It is usually when they are doing very well in the Champions League when they usually lose to Young Africans much as they usually go on to do better in the continental tournament.
In 1974, they lost the title they had won in March 1973 at the Uhuru Stadium, when they went down by 2-1 in Mwanza at the Nyamagana Stadium. However, they went on to reach the semifinal of the Champions League (then referred to as the All African Club Championship) when they were knocked out in Alexandria against Egypt’s textile club, Mehalla el Kubra.