MAINLAND Premier League champions Simba have been drawn against Egyptian giants Al Ahly in the Mapinduzi Cup tournament scheduled to kick-off in January 1, this year.
The annual tournament is for the first time expected to feature two teams from outside the United Republic of Tanzania, which are Kenyan Premier League champions, Tusker FC, and the reigning African Champions, Al Ahly.
According to the spokesperson of Mapinduzi Cup's organizing committee Farouk Karim, nine teams have been lined up for the two-week long championship, meant to celebrate the Zanzibar Revolutionary of 1964 that brought to an end centuries of Arab dominance of the Zanzibar archipelago.
The teams were drawn into two groups. Former champions Simba are in group A, alongside Al Ahly, Coastal Union and hosts Jamhuri. Holders Azam FC have been slotted in group B same as Kagame Cup Champions and city rivals Young Africans.
They are joined in the group by Tusker, Mtibwa Sugar and Miembeni. Jamhuri will clash against African Champions League winners, Al Ahly in the opening day at Gombani Stadium in Pemba. The inclusion of Ahly, a club named in 2000 by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) as the "African Club of the Century" and Tusker is expected to add more excitement to the tournament that traditionally pits teams from Mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar.
According to Tusker FC Director Charles Obwiny, the team intends to leave Kenya on December 24 for a six-day training session in Dar es Salaam before crossing over to Zanzibar in time for the all expense paid tournament.
Tusker, who have heavily recruited during the ongoing transfer window, are preparing to represent Kenya in the African Champions League and regional CECAFA club championships for the second consecutive season next year.
Obwiny said Tusker will be using the tournament and the friendly matches to shape up ahead of the new season with their eyes on defending the domestic cup title for the third year in a row and performing better in the CAF champions League where they have been drawn against St Michel from Seychelles in the first round.
Azam won the previous edition when they beat Jamhuri from Pemba in the final match played at Amaan Stadium in Zanzibar. Azam FC defied the odds by outclassing the leading club sides, sending them packing back home as they beat both Simba and Yanga in different rounds.