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Fanja signs deal with top east African club

Top East African football club Simba SC of Tanzania has signed a cooperation deal with defending Omantel Elite League champion Fanja, aiming to revive ties between the two clubs that date back to the seventies and eighties.

The deal was signed in Muscat on Sunday between Simba chairman Ismail Aden Rage and his Fanja counterpart Hamyar al Ismaily. As part of the agreement, the Tanzanian club will visit Muscat for a two-week camp in January 2013 and the Omani club will reciprocate the following August with a trip to Tanzania.

Speaking to Muscat Daily on Sunday, Rage said, “We are delighted to renew our old association with Fanja, one of the best known clubs in Oman. This is the start of a new beginning and we hope to have a long-term association.” Fanja chairman Ismaily said, “Many years back, during the early days of Fanja club, it used to regularly hire players from Simba.

Among the famous names were Talib Hilal (currently Oman's beach football coach), Ramadhan Leni and Madaraka. Our deal today is aimed at cementing that old relationship. We will host Simba in January for a camp and some friendly games. Fanja will then visit Tanzania in August before the start of the new domestic season in Oman.” The Tanzanian Premier League begins on January 26 and Simba, which is based in Dar es Salaam, will be in Muscat from January 9-23.

Ismaily said, “We have also agreed to exchange players when the clubs compete in international competitions. Also, we are exploring the possibility of having a common sponsor. We are in the process of having similar agreements with top clubs in Kuwait and Turkey.” Simba, the reigning domestic champion in Tanzania, has won a record 18 league titles, while Fanja regained the Omantel Elite League title last year after a gap of 20 years.

Fanja has also won eight HM's Cup titles. Rage, a former Simba player, added, “Our team is preparing for the African Clubs Championship, which will begin on February 15.

The camp in Muscat is going to be important for us as I feel Omani football has made big strides over the past few decades at the domestic and international level.” On his visit to Muscat, the Tanzanian football administrator watched the Omantel Elite League match between Fanja and Musannah on Friday. “Football in Oman has come a long way since the seventies and eighties. I wish the national team all the best for the World Cup qualifiers,” he said. The visiting club chairman praised Talib, a former Simba star, for his support. “He is part of the Simba family and we are proud of him for his achievements with our club and also with Oman,” he said. “One of Simba's greatest wins was achieved under Talib as coach, when we stunned African giant Zamalek of Egypt in the 1993 CAF Champions League.” Simba recently hired Frenchman Patrick Liewig, former Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) Academy coach, in its bid to defend the domestic league crown.

Simba has also achieved success at the continental level, reaching the semifinals of the African Cup of Champion Clubs in 1974. In 1993, it reached the final of the CAF Cup, Africa's premier club competition. Elaborating on Oman's Tanzanian connection, Rage said, “Simba is a 76 year old club and it has shared a strong connection with Fanja in the past.

Tanzania shares a common bond with Oman not just over football but also with the people of Oman. A lot of Omanis have family connections in Tanzania.” A member of the Tanzanian parliament, Rage said the October visit of Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete and his meeting with His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said was a landmark moment. Rage said, “Mrisho is keen on boosting sports relations with Oman and our agreement with Fanja will help foster such partnerships.”

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