Simba target Champions League group stage riches

By Emmanuel MugaBBC Sport, Dar es Salaam
Simba prepare to host Mazembe in the African Champions League
Simba (in red) were beaten by Mazembe (white shirts) but earned a reprieve after the Congolese fielded an ineligible player

For a team eliminated in the second round, the chance to reach the lucrative group phase of the African Champions League would seem like an absurd dream.

But Simba of Tanzania are in exactly that position, well aware that victory over Morocco's Wydad Casablanca on Saturday will seal a most unlikely qualification.

Both clubs were originally knocked out by reigning champions TP Mazembe but the Congolese side's disqualification has created a one-off play-off in neutral Egypt to determine the eighth and final member of the group stages.

Wydad have Simba to thank for their reprieve since the former Tanzanian champions ran to their country's FA following their 6-3 aggregate loss to Mazembe in April.

Simba alleged that Mazembe, who won the Champions League in both 2009 and 2010, had fielded an ineligible player when using Janvier Bokungu.

And when the Confederation of African Football (Caf) considered the case, they deemed that Bokungu was indeed still under contract with Tunisian club Esperance.

Simba have refused to disclose how they got hold of Boukungu's contract, with chairman Ismail Aden Rage saying the disclosure would be "unnecessary and unhelpful".

As Saturday's play-off looms into sight, Simba are preparing their players for 90 minutes that could bring the club great riches.

"By reaching the group stage, we are guaranteed to earn $400,000, while we can get up to $700,000 if we go further," Rage told BBC Sport.

"This is good money and don't forget we will get sponsors and have our players spotted as well."

"When you play a strong opposition your players get noticed and bought. When we played Mazembe, two of our players were subsequently bought by that team."

However, the club's hopes of using those players - Barnabas Samata and Patrick Ochan - have evaporated after Caf said the club could not field them.

The duo were recently sold to Mazembe but their transfers have yet to receive international clearance.

A supporter of Morocco's Wydad Casablanca
Simba will meet Morocco's Wydad Casablanca in Friday's $400,000-game

Although the Lubumbashi club gave the Tanzanians clearance to use the duo, Caf has ruled that they cannot be used.

Emmanuel Okwi will be available though, with the player having returned from undergoing trials in South Africa for a possible move to Kaizer Chiefs.

The club has revitalised its coaching bench in recent weeks, bringing in former Uganda international Moses Basena to replace Patrick Phiri.

The Zambian left after Simba failed to retain their league title, losing on the last day, and crashed out in the Champions League.

As the chance awaits to take on North African trio Al Ahly (Egypt), Esperance (Tunisia) and Mouloudia (Algeria) in Group B, Simba fans and officials are drawing inspiration from their successful run in 2003.

On that occasion, the Dar-es-Salaam club reached the Champions League group stages after knocking out five-time champions Zamalek of Egypt.

The little-fancied side was then just a whisker away from reaching the semi-finals of the competition.

"We will do our best to beat Wydad and reach the group stage," Rage added.

"Of course it is possible as we did it in 2003 after overcoming teams like Zamalek."

However, if Simba's recent form is anything to go by, their dream is unlikely to be fulfilled.

Simba lost the league title to rivals Yanga - on goal difference after squandering a late penalty - just a week after they were bundled out of the Champions League by Mazembe in convincing fashion.

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