AS had been widely expected, the relentless pelp-talk on the players notwithstanding, Simba are finally out of the Africa continent’s elite soccer club tournament, the Champions League after going down by 1-4 to TP Mazembe in their own backyard in Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Simba’s massive defeat last Saturday was caused by nothing more than lack of nerve of steel coupled with their technical bench’s failure to train them in strength, speed, suppleness and stamina (four S).
After scoring the first goal in less than three minutes, through Uganda’s Emmanuel Okwi, to the surprise of everyone, including their own opponents, they committed one fatal mistake a team of their calibre should not have done, when they tried to defend their lone goal very early in the game!
And, as if that was not bad enough, they forgot another, equally important cardinal principle I had repeated saying in many of my past columns from the day they started taking part in the competition, namely, the dire need to close down their opponents.
Simba players left their opponents too much free room, interestingly even in their own penalty box, to roam around something that you don’t do to a team of TP Mazembe’s pedigree.
In fact, they should thank their midget goalkeeper, Aishi Manula, who reduced the margin through his agility between the posts; otherwise the score could have more than doubled.
It was quite clear, as the match progressed on, that Simba players lacked almost all the four magical S. They did not have the requisite strength, speed and stamina to take on their opponents and that allowed the Congolese team to do whatever they wanted to do on the pitch.
Had they stepped up the game immediately they scored the first goal and silenced the fans, the Congolese team would not have managed to come back in the game and finally get to where they got, qualify for the semifinals.
Simply put, Simba deliberately allowed their opponents to come back in the game that had been just for their taking after the intelligent Ugandan striker had scored what should have served as the most important goal in the campaign.
I’m 150 per cent sure that, that was Head Coach, Patrick Aussem’s plan to the players, that go and get a surprise goal before they settle down and finally pin them down in their own half for more goals.
But my question is, had the players been prepared to play a fast game for more than the regulation time? Playing a fast game throughout the match would not have been possible if Simba players had not been prepared through the four S of strength, speed, suppleness and stamina.
Had Simba been well prepared in the magical four S, they would have been able to employ total football, all in attack and all in defence, and I’m quite sure after the first goal surprise, the Congolese team would have cracked and finally succumbed to Simba’s onslaught.
Whoever has been reading my columns, especially on Simba, would agree with me that the foregoing are the kind of stuff I have repeatedly dwelt on, actually to the point of monotony.
And, I repeatedly dwelt on the magical four S because in terms of performance there is really not much difference between the eight teams, including the defending champions, which qualified for the quarter finals of the Champions League.
Had there been a big difference, we wouldn’t have had situations where a team loses twice by five goals to nil, against two different opponents and away from home, but wins, by any margin, at home.
When I first started to extend my advice to Simba very early in the tournament, I recalled for them what the former Taifa Stars chief coach, Syllersaid Mziray, had repeatedly said as he lived on (he has since passed on).
Mziray said the performance of most top African clubs and national soccer teams is almost similar. He said for Tanzanian clubs and national soccer team to do well against their counterparts from other parts in the continent, they need to work hard on their strength, speed, suppleness and stamina.
And, Mziray’s arguments made a lot of sense. Indeed, you cannot deal with clubs like Al Ahly, Esperance, TP Mazembe and others if you are incapable of closing down on their players whenever they have a ball.
But you cannot close down on your opponents and throughout the match if your players are not well packed in strength, speed, suppleness and stamina.
Whoever watched Simba last Saturday would note that they lacked speed, strength, suppleness and stamina and that is why their opponents were able to turn the game on its head.
Commonsense dictates that when you are playing away from home, you must be better prepared as your opponent has the advantage of the 12th player, his soccer fans who would be heckling you throughout the match.
When Simba got their goal very early in the match, the massive crowd which had thronged the Lubumbashi Stadium fell silent. That silence could be rightly compared to the eerie silence one finds in an African graveyard in the midnight.
Simba failed to write their history in golden letters by seizing the opportunity that had presented itself to them!