It is all systems go for the first ever match of the all-new African Football League, after hosts Simba and Egypt’s Al Ahly had a feel of the match venue for Friday’s opening game, the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Tanzania’s capital Dar es Salaam.
Simba have been used to the stadium already, but they needed the minutes on the pitch on Thursday evening to soak in the atmosphere and get into the mood ahead of what promises to be a crunch tie.
The home side welcomed back defender Hennock Inonga who returned on Wednesday evening from international duty with the DR Congo national team. The stopper had been out for a while with injury and having played the full 90 minutes of Congo’s last friendly, expects to be a starter against Ahly.
Simba’s side looked to be in high spirits, as they look to kick off the campaign with a worthy win on home soil.
Ahly meanwhile, return to the stadium for the first time since 2021, and this time, they hope to be third time lucky, as they have lost on two previous occasions they have played there.
Ahly were with South African superstar Percy Tau, who has been a key member of the squad since joining two seasons ago.
The forward missed South Africa’s international matches due to family issues, but now seems focused and ready, if his body language and attitude in training is anything to go by.
While the two teams got themselves ready on the pitch, there was plenty of activities off it, with various aspects of the stadium getting the final touches ahead of the game.
In-stadium public address systems, the pitchside advertising monitors as well as rehearsals for the opening ceremony team went well into the evening to ensure everything is top notch.
Outside, several activities for fans are being lined up, including precision shooting and small-sided games, to ensure a carnival atmosphere when the tournaments kicks off officially.
Tanzania’s top two musicians, Diamond and Ali Kiba are expected to perform and thrill the crowd in the opening ceremony.
Dar will host the first two matches of the tournament, hosts Simba playing Ahly on Friday while DR Congo’s TP Mazembe will face off with Tunisia’s Esperance on Sunday.