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African Football League Preview: Simba SC

The inaugural edition of the African Football League (AFL) will begin on Friday when the eight-team competition commences with a duel between Egypt’s Al Ahly and Simba SC of Tanzania. Pan-Africa Football is previewing each participating club and below we focus next on the Reds of Msimbazi and titans of Tanzanian football, Simba SC:

Background

A very popular club in Tanzania named after the Swahili word for “lion”, Simba SC claim a large following that only continues to grow far beyond their base in Dar es Salaam. After a very disappointing 2022-23 season that resulted in a second place finish to fierce rivals Young Africans in the Ligi Kuu Tanzania Bara as well as a quarterfinal exit from the CAF Champions League, the Reds of Msimbazi are off to a good start in the current season. Considering they are undefeated in all competitions so far this campaign, Simba will fancy their chances in the AFL and against top African club Al Ahly despite the recent memories of failure from last season.

Schedule

Quarterfinals

1st Leg- vs Al Ahly on October 20 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

2nd Leg- @ Al Ahly on October 24 in Cairo

Notable Arrivals and Departures

Arrivals

MF Fabrice Ngoma (COD)- Transfer from Al-Hilal Omdurman (SDN)

FW Luís Miquissone (MOZ)- Transfer from Al Ahly (EGY)

FW Aubin Kramo (CIV)- Transfer from ASEC Mimosas (CIV)

DF Che Malone (CMR)- Transfer from Coton Sport (CMR)

GK Ayoub Lakred (MAR)- Transfer from ASFAR Rabat (MAR)

FW Leandre Essomba Onana (CMR)- Transfer from Rayon Sports (RWA)

Departures

DF Mohamed Ouattara (CIV)- Transfer to Al-Ain (KSA)

FW Pape Ousmane Sakho (SEN)- Transfer to Quevilly-Rouen (FRA)

DF Erasto Nyoni (TZA)- Transfer to Namungo (TZA)

MF Jonas Mkude (TZA)- Transfer to Young Africans (TZA)

FW Peter Banda (MWI)- Loan to Big Bullets (MWI)

FW Augustine Okrah (GHA)- Released

Head Coach- Robertinho

The Brazilian whose birth name is Roberto Oliveira Gonçalves do Carmo spent over ten years managing in African club football before being hired by Simba in January 2023. Robertinho earned his move to Simba after a brilliant spell with top Ugandan club Vipers SC who won the Uganda Premier League and then qualified for the group stage of the 2022-23 CAF Champions League for the first time in their history. The 63-year-old failed to revive Simba’s hopes of winning their domestic league last season but his charisma, confidence and past success in Africa is providing results so far in the current season.

Another coach who favors the 4-3-3 formation and its variants, Robertinho demands a high work rate from his players and wants to maintain pressure on opponents by winning the battle in the midfield. With seventeen goals in seven matches so far between games in the domestic league and CAF Champions League qualifying, Simba are showing signs of returning to the club that won four Tanzanian league titles between 2017 and 2021.

Goalkeeping

Aishi Manula is a reliable goalkeeper when available and is set for a timely return from injury when Simba faces Al Ahly

The goalkeeper position is a source of instability this season for Simba. Ayoub Lakred, champion of the Botola Pro in Morocco with ASFAR Rabat last season, is not living up to expectations since arriving at Simba and there are rumors his contract may be terminated. The Moroccan performed in place of long time Aishi Manula who is apparently set to return from injury for the first leg on Friday against Al Ahly.

An important player during Simba’s four years of dominance in Tanzanian football between 2017 and 2021, Manula has very good reflexes and is also a key member of the Tanzania national team. If Manula cannot play, 23-year-old backup shot stopper Ally Salim Juma showed that he is capable of stepping in if needed.

Defense

Right back Shomari Kapombe (on the left) and left back Mohamed Hussein (right) are veteran leaders who also represent Tanzania with the national team

As prolific as Simba’s attack tends to be, leaking goals can sometimes be an issue for the club particularly at higher level competition. Kenyan central defender Joash Onyango was let go after last season due to high profile errors and Simba spent a transfer fee to bring in talented Cameroonian defender Che Malone. The former Coton Sport star who also featured for Cameroon at the 2022 African Nations Championship (CHAN) is set to form a partnership with powerful Congolese defender Henoc Inonga Baka in the heart of the defense. Tanzanian center back Kennedy Juma is a capable replacement if there are any issues with injuries.

Fullbacks Shomari Kapombe and Mohamed Hussein are the heart and soul of the Simba team and offer plenty of industry and the ability to contribute in the attack. Kapombe is particularly effective in the attack and is capable of brilliance on set pieces.

Midfield

Simba tend to perform at their highest level when Malian midfielder Sadio Kanouté is at the base of the midfield

Simba struggled last season whenever Malian midfielder Sadio Kanouté was not in the eleven and the former Stade Malien player will be crucial in the AFL. This season the arrival of a new central midfield player, DR Congo’s Fabrice Ngoma, should help relieve some of the pressure of Kanouté as Simba attempt to get back to winning trophies. The former Al-Hilal Omdurman and Raja CA player is experienced at this level and adds stability. Tanzania national team player Yassin Mzamiru is the alternative option and is doing well when he plays in the domestic league.

Zambian playmaker Clatous Chama continues to be an important player and the 32-year-old had one of his best campaigns for the club last season. Chama provides assists and the proper service for Simba’s talented and quick attack, allowing the forwards and wing players to focus on making runs behind opposition defenses. Burundian attacker Saidi Ntibazonkiza is another creative force at the attacking midfield position while Kibu Denis can break down defenders on the wing with his pace and direct style of play.

Forwards

22-year-old former TP Mazembe striker Jean Baleke is continuing his rise this season with Simba, scoring five goals across Simba’s first five league matches

Simba’s overwhelming attack sputtered last season but remains a strength and is led by DR Congo’s Jean Baleke who is continuing the tradition of Congolese strikers finding success abroad in Africa’s top domestic leagues. Baleke is a player who can get behind the defense and pop up at the right spot at the right time to apply the finishing touch with his left foot, right foot or the head. Zambian forward Moses Phiri is another explosive option who scored fifteen goals in his first season at Simba last campaign.

Captain John Bocco is another reliable goal scoring option whose role is not as prominent as in past seasons but the Tanzanian is very capable at the age of 34. The return of Mozambican attacker Luís Miquissone adds plenty of intrigue to the quarterfinal duel with Al Ahly. Miquissone joined Ahly after scoring against the Egyptian giants for Simba in the 2020-21 CAF Champions League but failed to make an impression in Egypt before returning to Simba. He is coming off an injury but reportedly will be available for the first leg on Friday.

Prognosis

Simba will provide firm resistance and a difficult test for Al Ahly and considering it is the early stage of the season, anything can happen since the Tanzanian giants are in good form so far. If the defense stays strong for Robertinho then there is a strong possibility that Simba’s powerful attack can guide the Reds to an upset. However over two legs it is more difficult to achieve a victory over Al Ahly and Simba must earn a first leg victory by multiple goals in Dar es Salaam or else Ahly should be able to overcome.

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