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Tanzanians count SportPesa Super Cup gains

Singida United players walk out for warm up before their SportPesa Super Cup semi-final match against Gor Mahia at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru on June 7, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 12- The week-long SportPesa Super Cup hosted in Nakuru gave the four invited Tanzanian clubs an opportunity for post-season review with the teams saying they gained massively from the tourney after the completion of their domestic campaign.

Champions Simba SC who reached the final and lost to Gor Mahia, third placed side Singida United, Yanga and Zanzibar’s Jeshi La Kujenga Uchumi (JKU) were the invited sides from Tanzania.

While Yanga, Singida and Simba had completed their domestic campaign, JKU were preparing for the play-off round with the top two teams from Pemba Islands to determine the overall winner of the Zanzibar league after finishing top of the Unguja region.

“It was a great opportunity for us to weigh ourselves against one of the best teams in the region and see what we need to do to ensure that we go back home better,” JKU head coach Salum Khatib Omar said after his side’s 3-0 loss to eventual champions Gor Mahia in the quarter finals.

“In football you must be ready for any result and for us I think we did well in many areas. Gor are a better side, they are more experienced and physically, they are at a better place. For us, we were not at our best physically also considering most of our players are fasting,” the tactician added.

Gor Mahia winger George Odhiambo is tackled by JKU’s Suleiman Mwinyi during their SportPesa Super Cup clash at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru on June 3, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Omar further notes that the opportunity to play in the SportPesa Super Cup also handed them an opportunity to learn from other teams and give them an edge when they go back to vie for the title at home as well as preparing for the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup.

Meanwhile, Yanga who had a disastrous season domestically further had a disappointing outing in Nakuru, bowing out in the quarter finals after losing 3-1 to debutants Kakamega Homeboyz.

The Tanzanian giants have expressed they will not be taking part in this month’s CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup as they choose to concentrate on their CAF Confederation Cup campaign where they will clash with Kenya’s Gor.

Assistant coach Juma Mensah was dejected that his side bowed out in the first round of matches, but noted the gains picked from the tournament will be vital even as among other agendas they plot to wrestle the title back from sworn enemies Simba.

“We had very many new young players in the squad because up to seven of our first team players were not with us. This tournament gave the young boys a chance to show what they can do and gain experience,” Mensah noted.

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His charges will face Gor in the first leg of the Confederation Cup on July 18 in Nairobi before playing the return leg in Dar es Salaam 10 days later.

AFC Leopards winger Brian Marita wheels past Singida United’s Kennedy Juma during their SportPesa Super Cup clash at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru on June 5, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Meanwhile, Singida United came into the tournament under the tutelage of new head coach Suleiman ‘Morocco’ Hemed who was taking over from Dutchman Hans van der Pluijm who left for Azam at the close of the season.

Hemed who guided Zanzibar to the CEACAFA Senior Challenge Cup final last year said it was a good starting point from him and added winning the tournament’s bronze was a huge plus for his confidence and that of the team.

“It was very difficult to plan for this tournament because I am new in the team and I didn’t even have time to know the players and train with them. Everything we did was in-match and that made it very tough for us,” the tactician said.

He added; “I can say it’s a good start and I have seen the players and their abilities and also if need be where we need to bring in new players. From here now we can plan for the new season.”

Singida finished sixth in the Tanzanian Premier League on their debut season and reached the domestic cup final. From the Super Cup experience, Hemed is confident they can be a force to reckon next season in the Tanzanian top tier.

Simba SC players pose for a group photo before their SportPesa Super Cup final against Gor Mahia at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru on June 10, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Meanwhile, Simba SC who lost the final to Kenyan giants K’Ogalo were disappointed not to end their otherwise successful season with a ticket to England but stand-in coach Djuma Massoud was pleased with the performance of his players.

“This was a good opportunity for me to give the young players a chance to prove themselves. We also have very many new players who needed an opportunity to integrate with the team and I am pleased with how they performed,” Djuma noted.

He added; “Obviously it is sad for us not to win but we choose to look at the positive side of it and what we have gained.”

Simba will now switch their attention to the Kagame Cup which kicks off later this month.

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