Savoring Azam Sports Federation tourney, our FA Cup

25Dec 2017
The Guardian
Savoring Azam Sports Federation tourney, our FA Cup

A TOP flight side, Mbeya City which features in the Mainland Premier League is out of this year's Azam Sports Federation Cup (ASFC) after losing its second round fixture against a rural team. Ihefu FC in a penalty shootout at the Sokoine Stadium on Saturday.

It is one of those things which constantly recur in inter-divisional tournaments, where by England tradition we also follow that format. But it is a sponsor who runs the tourney, not the soccer federation, but the naming of the tournament was designed to cover up for the sponsoring deficit, where Azam Inc. drops its commercial logo to become a sports quasi 'federation.'

Ihefu FC features in the National Second Division League (SDL), in which case it is not supposed to be a match for a premier league side, but against all odds, put a spirited showing throughout the regular 90 minutes, which ended with the two teams level on 1-1. In that case either side could have won the spot kicks but Ihefu proceeding to the third round was bigger news than Mbeya City proceeding with difficulties. As fate is also an aspect of football encounters, indeed underlining what happens in whole tournaments, it was not surprising that Ihefu won the shootout. It sent a stark message across the board that all clubs are equal.

In the penalty shootout, Mbeya City scored four penalties, whilst Ihefu FC netted five to progress to the third round of the tournament. This too, while showing that Mbeya City lost by the narrowest of margins, is also part of what can be called spiritual design, so that Mbeya City doesn't have too big a burden of blame throwing and loss attribution, but to the best extent possible, shrug off the loss as part of soccer. It indeed is part of soccer, but soccer isn't just a round leather ball, 22 players, officials and spectators but more,  and in this season of joy, Mbeya City and fans ought to remember that maxim, 'man shall not live by bread alone.'

Ihefu FC keeper Andrew Kayuni saved a free kick from about 23 meters two minutes after kick off as the latter went in search of an early goal. That early scare was a true picture of things to come but it did not tie down the premier league side, but served to show that the opponents were not second division pushovers. as scores in the opposite camp would unavoidably have imagined. Still it was striker Mohamed Mkopi who put Mbeya City 1-0 up on the 29th minute, connecting home a free kick by midfielder Mohamed Samatta from outside the penalty area. This display would have confirmed Mbeya City fans in expectations that the second division side would give way inch by inch; instead they reorganised, more than held their ground.

City pushed for more goals later in the half, only to be frustrated by Ihefu keeper, Kayuni and Ihefu striker Ibrahim Kalenzo levelled matters on the 50th minute. Obviously this reinforced the doubts creeping up in Mbeya City and vastly rekindled hope among Ihefu supporters, and the regular 90 minutes ended with the two teams level on 1-1, so the game had to be settled by a penalty shootout. This upset wasn't a one off but tended to be replicated elsewhere, with little known Kiluvya United of Coast Region making it to the third round after cruising to a 3-2 victory over city side African Lyon at the Uhuru Stadium. It is the FA Cup!