Tanzanian football club Simba Sports Club is the only side from the East African region still in the running for the 2020/2021 Total Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League.
The competition heads into the group stages next month after completion of the preliminary knockout round early this month.
Simba, an established club in Tanzania, eliminated Nigeria’s Plateau United (1-0 on aggregate) and Zimbabwe’s FC Platinum (4-1 aggregate) each over two legs to book their ticket in the last 16.
In achieving this, the Dar es Salaam-based side did better than the only other EAC representatives in the preliminary round section, Gor Mahia of Kenya, who lost 1-8 on aggregate to CR Belouizdad of Algeria. Gor lost 1-2 at home in the final leg of their preliminary knockout tie after taking a 0-6 beating away in Algiers earlier.
For Simba, the competition gets tougher for a team whose best showings in the tournament were quarter final appearances in both 1975 and 2019 (when they were eliminated by DRC’s TP Mazembe and Al Mehalla Al Kubra of Egypt, respectively). They have been placed in Group A where they will face defending CAF club champions Al Ahly of Egypt, and two other experienced teams — AS Vita of the Democratic Republic of Congo and El Merreikh of Sudan.
Pundits point to the resemblance between this Group A and that of 2018/2019 when Simba met both Al Ahly and AS Vita. That year, they won all home games, pipping Al Ahly 1-0, AS Vita 2-1, and trouncing Algeria's JS Saoura 3-0, despite a relatively poor away record that included 0-5 losses to both Al Ahly in Cairo and AS Vita in Kinshasa.
Simba will kick off their group campaign with an away game against AS Vita in Kinshasa on February 13. The group stage, starting on February 12, will run until April 2.
Despite signing on several foreign players including Ugandan midfielder Taddeo Lwanga, Simba lost their head coach Sven Van de Broeck. The Belgian-born tactician quit suddenly on the same day Simba qualified for the group stage, citing family and "personal development" reasons, only to sign up with Morocco’s FAR Rabat.