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Belgian coach on verge of steering Tanzanian club to historic win

Johannesburg (AFP) – Sven Vandenbroeck, a Belgian who has scaled the heights and plumbed the depths in Africa, is on the verge of another uptick in his coaching career, with Tanzanian club Simba SC.

The Dar es Salaam outfit hold a 1-0 lead over Plateau United of Nigeria and will have home advantage this weekend in the second leg of a CAF Champions League preliminary round tie.

This promising position for Simba came about thanks to a goal from Zambian Clatous Chama 10 minutes into the second half of the first encounter last weekend.

“My boys ran from the first whistle to the last and I congratulate them for achieving a memorable victory,” Vandenbroeck told AFP.

“However, we underestimate Plateau at our peril. They are a physically strong and technically gifted side and we face another tough test this weekend.”

Vandenbroeck has good reason to be wary as he seeks a historic overall victory because five previous attempts by Tanzanian clubs to defeat Nigerian rivals in two-leg Champions League qualifiers failed.

Enugu Rangers eliminated Young Africans in 1975 and Simba lost to Kwara Water Corporation in 1977, Racca Rovers in 1979 and Enyimba in 2005 and 2008.  

Overcoming Plateau in Nigeria was another highlight for Vandenbroeck, who replaced fellow Belgian Patrick Aussems last December and led Simba to a Premier League-FA Cup-Community Shield treble.

He was assistant to compatriot Hugo Broos when Cameroon shocked Africa in 2017 by lifting the Cup of Nations with a 2-1 comeback victory over Egypt in the final.

However, poor subsequent showings in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and 2018 World Cup qualifying led to the Belgians being axed.

– Go it alone –

While Broos returned to Europe, Vandenbroeck decided to go it alone and was named national coach of struggling former African champions Zambia.

The Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) had not qualified for the 2017 Cup of Nations and the Belgian was tasked with ensuring there was not a recurrence.

Unfortunately for the Belgian, Zambia also failed to make the 2019 finals and he was fired, although the Belgian disputes this, saying he resigned. 

Either way, he was unemployed until Simba threw him a lifeline and so far he has done well in a demanding environment.

Simba, who have dominated Tanzanian football for decades with Young Africans, want to become a force in Africa, not just at home.

The Champions League target this season is a semi-finals place, which is going to be extremely difficult to achieve given the strength of the field.

Seven of the Champions League quarter-finalists last season are back, led by record nine-time title-holders Al Ahly of Egypt.

If Simba eliminate Plateau they will meet FC Platinum of Zimbabwe or Costa do Sol of Mozambique for a place in the group phase, where clubs are guaranteed at least $550,000 (450,000 euros).   

Reaching the 16-club group phase would be an achievement in itself given that Simba and Young Africans have managed to do so only three times between them in 23 years.

In 2019, Simba pulled off a top-two finish in a group to reach the quarter-finals, where they fell 4-1 on aggregate to TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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