African club football gets very little coverage in Europe so I thought it would be interesting to delve into this little known world for another blogpost.
On Saturday the East African club cup begins in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Twelve clubs from ten African nations compete for the coveted trophy. African giants Al Ahly of Egypt and Liberty Professionals of Ghana were originally pencilled in to play as guest sides, but budgetary constraints meant their invites had to be withdrawn. This East African Cup comes at a good time in the football calendar for many of these clubs as most of them are now out of continental competition with both the CAF Champions League and the CAF Confederations Cup both down to the final eight club group stage phase.
In Group A are Tanzanian side Simba Sports Club who will play their games in their home city of Dar es Salaam, they had a good run in both the CAF Champions League and the Confederations Cup narrowly missing out on the group stages of both competitions. They are also the most successful team in this East African club tournament having won the trophy six times, however they last won the trophy in 2002. They are joined in the group by Vital’O from Bujumbura in Burundi who were very unlucky to go out of the CAF Champions League to Cameroonian giants Cotonsport on away goals. Etincilles from the far western town of Giseyni in Rwanda will play in the opening game of the competition against Zanzibarian outfit Ocean View who have to make a relatively short trip to the Tanzanian mainland for the competition.
Group B contains the other Tanzanian side Yanga (Young Africans) who like Simba are also based in Dar es Salaam, they are current Tanzanian champions and the most successful side in Tanzanian history. They are also the former club of ex-Galatasaray and Blackburn striker Shabani Nonda who spent a year or two there as a youth player. Young Africans will have to face up against Sudanese, Ugandan and Somalian competition if they wish to get out of the group stage. Sudan are represented by Al-Merreikh who are one of the oldest sides in Africa having been founded in 1927, though their history stretches back to 1908. Al-Merreikh (which means Mars in English) can boast iconic Egyptian goalkeeper El-Hadary who has won over 100 caps for the Pharaohs. The group is completed by Ugandan side Bunamwaya and Somalians Elman FC who will have their work cut out against their more illustrious opposition.
The games for for the final group will all be played in the Tanzanian city of Morogoro (all Group A and Group B games will take place in the capital Dar Es Salaam). Along with host country Rwanda also have two entrants in the competition. Armée Patriotique Rwandaise (or APR FC) of Kigali are current champions of the competition and will come up against Ulinzi Stars of Kenya who have the Kenya super-8 tournament to finish before they arrive in Tanzania, AS Port of Djibuti and Ethiopian side St. George who are managed by former Italian international Beppe Dossena and have a marvellous yellow with red chevron as a home kit.
The top two in each group qualify for the quarter-finals along with the two best runners up. The full schedule of fixtures can be found on the CAF website: http://www.cafonline.com/competition/_2010/news/10183-fixtures-kagamecastle-cup-2011.html