Whitecaps ready for a journey to Tanzania - 24 Hours
By BOB MACKIN
The Vancouver Whitecaps are going on an African soccer safari.
The 2008 United Soccer Leagues' First Division champions leave March 4 for Tanzania where they will meet the national team in Dar es Salaam on March 8.
The Taifa Stars, as they are nicknamed, are ranked 103rd in the world, between Malawi (102nd) and China (104th). Tanzania is representing the Central-East African zone at the ongoing African Nations Championship in Ivory Coast.
The Whitecaps also have dates with Tanzanian Premier League clubs Young Africans FC on March 11 and Simba SC on March 14. All matches are in the 60,000-seat Benjamin Mkapa National Stadium, which opened in 2007 as a joint-venture with the Chinese government.
The Whitecaps are also planning to visit schools and conduct youth soccer clinics.
The tour is the most ambitious by a Vancouver sports franchise since the Vancouver Canucks' 1997 season opener in Tokyo against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and the 2000 training camp in Sweden.
The original North American Soccer League Whitecaps played three matches in England in 1980. A year later they played three games in Ireland and two in England before the season and returned to Europe for post-season friendlies in the Netherlands, Sweden, England and Italy. The 1979 club, which won the Soccer Bowl championship, had a training camp in Santa Barbara, Calif.
The Whitecaps return to Vancouver March 19 and open defense of their USL title on April 11. The club is also bidding to join Major League Soccer in 2011.