THE National Stadium in Dar es Salaam will on Sunday host a soccer thriller when Premier League leaders Simba will battle it out with Entente Sportive Setif from Algeria in the first round of the, first leg of the African Confederation Cup.
In a nutshell, the tournament brings to the fore 51 club teams from 40 associations and countries from the preliminary rounds. The eventual winner will be known in November. Simba are Tanzania's sole representatives in the continental tournaments after Young Africans suffered an early exit in the Champions League.
So were Mafunzo from Unguja and Jamhuri from Pemba who were eliminated in the preliminary rounds of the Champions League and Confederation Cup. Simba have stepped up preparations to shape up for the clash and are expected to fly the national flag high in their campaign.
They have already shown strength after pulling an excellent 1-1 away draw against SC Kiyovu of Rwanda before snatching a hard fought 2-1 victory at home to dismiss the Rwandese on a 3-2 aggregate win. Simba's record on the continent is well-documented.
The team reached the final of the same tournament way back in 1993. Such record should well be capitalised by the Dar es Salaam giants. But they would need to justify their worth by doing well in the championships this time around. Another factor that should give Simba much need confidence and spirit is definitely their recent form in the top flight league, which they enjoyed driver's seat for the most part of the season.
They should overcome shortcomings that have seen pundits labeling them as 60 minutes side. The team has been criticized for showing lack of stamina in most of their games and Serbian coach Milovan Cirkovic faces a challenge to get his players performing at the peak for the entire 90 minutes and keep their focus on the game.
Simba have to fight and give it their best shot and their hope of maintaining a winning form in the content's second tier start club championships will largely depend on players' spirit and commitment on the pitch. Last but not least - and equally significant -- is the support from fans.