DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, Jul 12- Everton left-back Leighton Baines has said the team is excited to face record 15-time Kenyan Premier League champions Gor Mahia on Thursday at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam as part of their pre-season training.
Baines, an English international however says they will be heading into the match blind of their opponents as they haven’t had a glimpse of what they have to offer, but nonetheless expects a thrilling match from them.
“We haven’t had much to know about them because we have only been back in training for a week now. We have a training session tonight and it will be mostly about fitness and getting to prepare for the match,” Baines told Capital Sport shortly after arriving at their residence in upmarket Dar es Salaam.
He adds that it will be a great opportunity for the team to get to gel in with the new players as well as build up momentum towards the start of their English Premier League campaign next month.
Everton have brought with them several of their new signings including star England striker Wayne Rooney, Former Ajax captain Davy Klaasen and defender Michael Keane. Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and striker Sandro Ramires who have also been signed this summer did not travel.
“This is a perfect opportunity to get started and being early enough in pre-season it’s a great opportunity for the team because we have new players and we haven’t trained together. Getting a good game such as tomorrow’s would be good,” Baines added.
The defender has called on fans to throng the stadium and enjoy the game, promising the Blues will give in a good account of themselves.
The team was handed a superb reception straight from the Julius Nyerere International Airport where curious onlookers and fans thronged, but they spent very limited time there due to heightened security as the airport was dealing with three incoming foreign presidents.
With a convoy complete with outriders, the team made its way to upmarket Tanzania in Masaka where they will reside for the next two days.
Upon arrival at their hotel, the team was treated to a rousing welcome complete with Maasai dancers on the beachfront and the players, led by head coach Ronald Koeman showed their excitement with unending smiles while capturing the moments on their smart phones.
Striker Rooney, clearly the attraction of the Everton side clutched in between his new teammates, smiling away every moment of the dance and chuckling in excitement at the screams.
Aaron Lennon, fresh from rehabilitation also looked in high spirits constantly sharing jokes with defender Ashley Williams as they enjoyed the reception.
“It’s a very warm welcome and the lads are very excited. This is nothing we see at home and we are excited to be here and to see warm and welcoming people,” Baines said.
A few Congolese fans residing in Tanzania made their way to the hotel and lined up at the entrance singing praises to their star player Yannick Bolasie. The forward will however not be on the pitch as he is still undergoing rehabilitation from a serious knee ligament injury picked up last season.
The team will head into CSR activities at the Uhuru Primary in Kariakoo on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam as well as a soccer clinic at the Uhuru Stadium, outside the National Stadium.
The team will have its first training session at the match venue on Wednesday evening.
Everton travelling squad:
Maarten Stekelenburg, Mateusz Hewelt, Chris Renshaw, Tom Davies, Phil Jagielka, Ashley Williams, Callum Connolly, Jonjoe Kenny, Michael Keane, Muhamed Besic, Leighton Baines, Morgan Schneiderlin, James McCarthy, Davy Klaassen, Gareth Barry, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Joe Williams, Kieran Dowell, Kevin Mirallas, Wayne Rooney, Aaron Lennon, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ademola Lookman, Matthew Pennington, Yannick Bolasie.
-Timothy Olobulu is reporting from Dar es Salaam-