SOFIA, Feb 19 (Reuters) - International soccer will return to Libya on Monday when local clubs Al Nasr Benghazi and Al Ahli Tripoli meet CSKA Sofia in matches that will mark the first anniversary of the revolution, the Libyan embassy in Bulgaria said.
The 31-times Bulgarian champions will become the first foreign team to play in the African country after the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s rule erupted on Feb. 17 last year.
“We are very grateful to the Bulgarian team, who agreed to participate in this historic event for Libya,” the embassy told Reuters by email on Sunday.
The Libyan league has been suspended since last February but clubs have continued to play in continental competitions, by forfeiting their right to play at home in knockout ties, which were reduced to a single match at their opponent’s ground.
The national team used Mali and Egypt as their home grounds in the Nations Cup qualifiers but still managed to reach the finals, which were co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
CSKA visit Libya for the first time since the 1960s when the team took part in an international tournament.
The matches will take place at the “Benina Martyrs” stadium in the eastern town of Benghazi, which is about 1,000 kms east of the capital Tripoli with capacity crowds expected for all games.
Haitham Saliman Mahmoud, a member of the organising committee, told Reuters by telephone that a three-way tournament would be played on both Tuesday and Wednesday.
Asked why a Bulgarian side had been invited, he replied: “This tournament is organised by a political party and they have business relations with the CSKA president so they offered to play this tournament and he accepted.”
Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Additional reporting by Osama Khairy; Editing by John Mehaffey