BY Kevin Mapasure
THE pre-match chatter and banter ahead of the Simba SC and FC Platinum clash provided a lot of intrigue as the match finally moves to the field at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium this afternoon. All hope is that it will be just as fascinating.
A lot has been said and pledges made from both camps, setting up what could be one of the most fierce contests for a group stage spot in the Caf Champions League.
FC Platinum carry a 1-0 first leg lead and coach Norman Mapeza said he knows what to do to qualify.
He has even described the highly ambitious Simba side as ordinary and beatable, and his words have provided sweet music to Young Africans fans, who are Simba’s main rivals in the Tanzanian topflight.
Simba took it a step further, declaring that the match will be over as a contest within the first 20 minutes.
The club’s spokesperson Haji Manara bragged that a number of top teams from Africa have seen their “fire” while playing against Simba at Benjamin Mkapa Stadium.
“We will finish the game within the first 20 minutes. You know very well what happens when we play at Mkapa Stadium. Several teams have suffered at the venue and FC Platinum will not be an exception,” Manara told reporters in Dar es Salaam ahead of the return leg.
“We have beaten AS Vita Club (of the Democratic Republic of Congo) at Mkapa; we have beaten Al Ahly (from Egypt), we have also beaten Zambia’s Nkana FC and it will be the same thing against FC Platinum. We will do the job in a space of 20 minutes. Just watch the space, people should know this is Simba, we do what we want and it is not easy to beat us at Mkapa,” he said.
Manara also urged the supporters to turn out in large numbers and give the team support, promising that they would not be disappointed.
“We urge our fans to come and cheer the team. Let us give them support from the first to the final whistle. I am sure with their (fans’) support, FC Platinum will get nothing from the fixture,” Manara added.
“I can assure you, there is no way they (FC Platinum) will come out of Mkapa Stadium with a win, they know what we have done to other teams. They know we have done it against the biggest clubs in Africa, will it be them to beat us? It will not be possible.
“Our strength is because of the fans, our pride is because of the fans, we depend on our fans more than anything else. We are the team of the people so we want them to come in numbers, our target is the group stage and we will make it for sure,” he said.
Simba expect about 30 000 fans in the stadium, but not all of them will be rooting for the home team.
With Young Africans fans mobilising support for FC Platinum, this could turn out to be one memorable contest.
Mapeza is usually reserved in pre-match comments and normally keeps so much in his chest.
But this time he has broken his rules, probably riled by the talk coming from the opposition camp.
“We have come to do the same task of seeking victory. We are ready to get a win and qualify to the next stage. Nothing more,” Mapeza told reporters.
“There is nothing else we need, all we know is our opponents are psychologically prepared and we know they are a tough team to play at home. We respect them, but we are not afraid of them.
“We should have scored more goals in our 1-0 win back at home, but even though this slim advantage is good for us, we will strive to score goals. We will push them and the more they move forward, we have the chance to kill them off on counter-attacks.”
“Don’t worry, we know how to deal with them. I have been following their game and know how to handle them. Our main target is to reach the group stage,” he said.
Clearly, so much attention will be on FC Platinum forward Perfect Chikwende, who is already on Simba’s wishlist, as so much talk has centred on him.
It will be interesting how the Simba defenders handle him.
There are questions on how FC Platinum will handle this one, but one thing for sure is that they have to be as solid and clinical in front of goal.
FC Platinum goalkeeper and captain Petros Mhari insists lessons must be learnt from the first leg performance.
“It’s our responsibility. We did a great job in the first half, but in the league of champions, we cannot start the second half like we did,” he told the club’s official Facebook site.
“We need to take it, to think about it, it’s about learning and going for the next one.
“We’ve been told this during all the training sessions — we cannot start the second half like we did — we need to concentrate and fight to the end.
“It’s about growing and thinking about what we did bad,” he said.
The match could provide lockdown cheer for football fans as it will be streamed on various platforms.
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