It’s Sunday afternoon – the derby is over, but its result and beautiful brand of football displayed by both teams remains talk of the town.
The man who was instrumental in Simba SC’s dramatic comeback, Clatous Chama – a Zambian midfield magician – sits right across the table sipping some freshly squeezed mango juice.
We’ve met him at the Dar Freemarket Mall, located in Oyster Bay – an affluent neighborhood in Dar es Salaam popularly known for its attractive beach – to collect some jerseys that we intend to brandish at the FARPost offices.
The generous Chama invites us to munch some fine morsels at a restaurant called Burger53. Because we had been unable to manoeuvre and find breakfast in the morning we decide ‘brunch’ would certainly be awesome.
But there’s one thing on my mind. I really want to know what goes on in the mind of a man directly involved in the explosive Kariokoo derby.
Even better, the man sitting across the table was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 2019/20 season in the Tanzanian Premier League. He bore so much responsibility to turn things around for Simba on Saturday.
I’d hoped to have a chat with a few players from both teams before the game but was told they weren’t allowed to speak to the media before the crucial tie. I’d seen and spoken to several fans from both sides and totally understood how important the tie is for them.
And while my colleague Ofhani Munyai orders some chicken wings (nowhere near our Chicken Licken) and chips, I’m already talking to ‘Triple C’, who grew up in Kitwe, Zambia where, coincidentally, my mother uMaKhumalo was born some 60 years ago.
We chat a little about Zambia’s third largest city, Kitwe, and his upbringing as part of my easing him into opening up to me because it’s the first time we’re meeting. Before I even get into my derby questions the man blurts out something that draws my attention.
“If we had lost the derby we wouldn’t be having lunch together here. I would be sitting at home for the next two days until things cool off,” says the talented midfielder who had to play with a niggle.
In essence, when the Simba players returned from the half time pep talk on Saturday they just knew they had to dig in their heels and get that much-needed equalizer. There was no other way to go about things.
And, indeed, they pushed. They fought – with Chama pulling the strings in the middle of the park.
Funny enough, I’d been told before the game that Chama, who was also midfielder of the season at the end of the 2019/20 term, would not be part of the game because of an injury. But he explains that while he was injured, missing the game was never an option.
“As you can see my right thigh is a little swollen, I have a muscle strain,” he says pointing to his right thigh and then the left to show the difference.
But, he explains that he was given some rest on Thursday to recover and felt better afterwards. It was all for the derby. “The coach (Sven Vandenbroeck) then told the media that I’d be unavailable for the game, it was just mind games,” he says.
And then he shows us some threatening SMSes supposedly from Yanga fans who didn’t want him to play. Clearly, so much goes into this derby. No-one wants to play second fiddle. They will do everything they can to tip the scales in their favour.
Before Saturday’s, the most recent derby ended with a 4-1 drubbing for Yanga in the TFF Cup, which is the equivalent of the FA Cup, on July 12.
A repeat of that would have been suicidal for the players. Tanzanian football fans will not tolerate mediocrity. In fact, losing a derby is taboo. Absolutely unacceptable.
“It means I have a difficult week at work, there’s so many Simba fans there and they’ll be bragging all week. That’s how bad it is,” says Abdul Mdoe, a Yanga fan who joined us for the meal. He’d never hear the end of it if his team had lost the game.
Sitting in the stadium, surrounded by Yanga fans on Saturday, the passion was so palpable. Those men and women around me, who enjoyed their ‘liquid courage’ (alcohol), desperately wanted it…so bad.
And the demand they place on their players obviously filters down to them and culminates into a winning mentality.
It’s the Kariakoo – the derby of derbies!
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By Mthokozisi Dube