Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Anxiety as big guns face off

Young Africans midfielder Haruna Niyonzima

Young Africans midfielder Haruna Niyonzima during a past match. PHOTO|FILE 

By Majuto Omary @majutoy2k momary@tz.nationmedia.com

Dar es Salaam. Zanzibar comes alight today when the country’s football heavyweights, Simba and Young Africans, lock horns in the Mapinduzi Cup semi-final clash at the 12-seater Amaan Stadium.

While real action will be on the pitch, more action is expected in the stands where hundreds of the two teams’ fans, who have travelled all the way from Dar es Salaam and other areas to Zanzibar, will be cheering their respective teams.

This is the fourth time in 32 years the two teams, whose rivalry is as old as the country’s football history, face off in Zanzibar.

They clashed for the first time in the Isles in 1975, and Yanga beat their traditional rivals 2-0 in the East and Central Africa Club Championship (now Cecafa Kagame Cup) final.

They met again in 1992 in the Cecafa Kagame Cup final, and Simba won the battle of the titans on penalties after a one-all draw in regulation time.

In 2011, Simba maintained their supremacy over Yanga as they hit them 2-0 in the Mapinduzi Cup final at the Amaan Stadium.

This means George Lwandamina’s men will have revenge in mind when they tackle the Msimbazi Reds in an encounter no team will afford to lose. The match kicks off at 8.15pm.

The winner of the billed to be a nail-biting match will book a place in the final of the Mapinduzi Cup scheduled for Friday at the same venue.

Players of both teams were yesterday in high spirits, looking forward to give their respective fans something to smile about today.

Yanga will be fighting for a win so as not only to sail through, but also appease their disgruntled fans.

The Jangwani Street team’s supporters were left puzzled on Saturday when the Mainland giants crashed to a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Azam FC at the same venue.

But they will be unfortunate not to have on board strikers Donald Ngoma and Obrey Chirwa, who are still nursing injuries they sustained in a past match.

“We will not afford another defeat tomorrow (today). We have addressed the weaknesses we noted during our match against Azam,” the team’ assistant coach, Juma Mwambusi’ said yesterday.

Simba assistant coach Jackson Mayanja assured the Msimbazi Street team fans that nothing would stop his team from turning tables on their arch-rivals today.

Mayanja said Simba will be all out to maintain their impressive performance in the annual tournament at the expense of Yanga.

“We are in good form as those who have seen us in action this season can attest. Our target is not only to beat Yanga, but also snatch the title,” Mayanja said confidently.