Libyan side Al Hilal SC will on Saturday host Kenyan champions Gor Mahia to an international friendly at 10,000 capacity Martyrs of Benina Stadium in Benina, Benghazi east of the war torn North African state.
The all expenses paid trip gives K’Ogalo a good preparation over the international break before they resume Kenyan Premier League action next week Thursday against KK Homeboyz in Kisumu.
Al Hilal have pulled all stops to ensure the meet is a success,most significantly, they have made sure that K’Ogalo are as comfortable as a king on his throne. The club is taking this meet more than seriously.
“We would like to thank our hosts (Al Hilal) for a wonderful reception,” Sally Bolo, Gor’s treasurer, said on arrival at Benina Airport from Alexandria, Egypt on Wednesday.
Top club officials and security honchos lined-up at the airport to welcome the most storied Kenyan club with pomp and colour. Every moment of the trip captured in photos and short videos and shared widely on social media. Both clubs have frequently gone LIVE on Facebook during training sessions and press conferences.
The one time Libyan Cup champions recently recruited a new development manager, Hossamedin Bedier, an Egyptian, who has a vast experience in media, having worked with top European clubs like Liverpool and Marseille, to join their ranks.
Al Hilal SC VS Gor Mahia. [Courtesy]Bedier tells this reporter that with this friendly, apart from preparing for a new league season next year, they seek to prove that Libya is stable and ripe for the return of domestic and international football. They also want to “revive” their city Benghazi using sports.
“We want to get ready for the new season – kicking off next January. We also want to show the world that Benghazi and Libya is safe,” he said.
Libya’s top tier league was suspended in April this year due to insecurity. Teams from Western part of the country, mainly the capital Tripoli, petitioned for the suspension over fighting. The teams include Al Ahli Tripoli and Al-Ittihad.
Since allied forces led by the USA toppled the government of Muammar al-Gaddafi and killed him in 2011 during the Arab Spring and the advent of sectarian war in 2014, Libya has remained unstable.
However, the Eastern part of the country is emerging from the ruins and is considered relatively peaceful.
The country has not staged an international match since beating Togo 2-0 in Tripoli in a World Cup qualifier in 2013 following a FIFA ban due to the insecurity. Sports and specifically football has suffered during this dark period.
Libya national team and various clubs from the country, notably Al-Ittihad, have continued to take part in international assignments, but away from home.
The Mediterranean Knights, for example, will today (Friday) face the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia in the AFCON 2021 qualifies in Rades, Tunisia, before hosting Tanzania in their second Group J match on Tuesday next week – home away from home in Monastir, Tunisia.
Al Hilal wants to change this by staging successful international football games in Benghazi and throughout the nation starting with the game against Gor Mahia. They want FIFA and the world to view Libya not through the prism of war, but hope and peace and get the ban lifted.