Mainland champions Young Africans and Simba, the mirror of the country's football, have baffled Tanzanians several times in the continental club competitions. But this time around they say they are sufficiently equipped to make their presence felt in their respective assignments, writes Staff Writer KAMATA NJELEKELA...
ONE of the first lessons a young Tanzanian soccer fan learns is that never in the history of the country's football has any local team ever won the top honour in any continental competition.
Simba and Young Africans, for instance, have no trophies in their respective vaults after more than 60 years of existence -- a hard fact millions of their supporters have to live with.
It remains a puzzle that clubs with the fortunes to count in their folds of generations of the country's finest players such as legendary Abdallah Kibaden 'Mputa' (Simba) and Sunday Manara 'Computer' (Yanga), have miserably failed to win a single continental title.
The other legends who featured for the two teams during their hey days are Athuman Mambosasa and Haidari Abeid 'Muchacho' for Simba, and Maulid Dilunga and Kitwana Manara 'Popat' for Yanga.
Yet, in 1993, the Msimbazi Reds, as Simba are fondly referred to, came close to winning the old version of the Confederation Cup (CAF Cup) -- the highest level of success for them so far.
Simba, then coached by former international Kibaden, made it into the final, only to find Stella Abidjan of Ivory Coast too hot to handle.
Kibaden's lads seemed destined for the title when they forced the West African team to a barren draw in a first leg tie in Abidjan.
Their hopes to emerge the 1993 CAF Cup champions, however, went up in slim smoke two weeks later, as, against all predictions, they lost 2-0 to Stella Abidjan at home under controversial circumstances.
Simba had previously reached the semi-finals of the African Clubs Championship – predecessor of the current CAF Champions League -- only to be eliminated by Mehalla el-Kubra of Egypt in Cairo in 1974.
Another chance came their way in 2003 when they cruised into the Last Eight of the African Champions League at the expense of title holders Zamalek of Egypt, who they stunned 3-2 on penalties in a second round return leg match in Cairo.
Simba, who had to come through the preliminary round, held a 1-0 lead from the first leg in Dar es Salaam, and kept the Egyptians at bay until in the 20th minute when Abdel- Halim Ali evened the aggregate score.
The Egyptian giants could not grab a second, forcing the nail-biting match to penalties, in which Simba, then under the tutelage of Kenyan James Siang'a, stole the show.
It was one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Champions League, the continent's greatest club championship.
To the disappointment of their fans, Siang'a's team failed to make an impact in the quarters, breaking the hearts of their supporters again.
Yanga, on the other hand, had their highest level of success in the continental club competitions in1998 when they sealed the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
As was the case with their traditional foes Simba, the Jangwani street team, as Yanga are popularly known, fared dismally in the last phase.
A couple of years later, those agonising memories are still fresh in the memories of fans of the two teams.
Now with a fresh opportunity knocking, determination and optimism prevail in the camps of the two teams to end what has come to be perceived as an embarrassing jinx.
Expectations are high following Yanga's memorable performance in the recent Tusker Challenge Cup and Simba's smooth run in the first phase of the Vodacom Premier League.
Yanga, now coached by Serbian Kostadin Papic, launch their Champions League campaign against St. Eloi Lupopo of DR Congo on February 14, while Simba have a bye to the first round of the CAF Cup where they face the winner of a preliminary round tie between Zimbabwe's Lengthens and AS Adema of Madagascar.
And, as Papic and his Simba counterpart Zambian Patrick Phiri said the other day, the two teams have enough fighting spirit to make their presence felt in the two tournaments.
It remains to be seen if the two local big guns will this time manage to kill the jinx!