The first edition of the African Football League – launched as the CAF Africa Super League before undergoing a name change – will be very different from what was originally planned.
Instead of a 24-club, 197-fixture competition hyped as a game changer for African clubs, there will be only eight teams and 14 matches, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) revealed on Tuesday. A CAF statement said a draw to create two-leg quarter-finals would be staged on Saturday in Cairo, with Tanzania hosting the opening match on October 20th and the final on November 5th and 11th.
The organisation offered no explanation as to why the maiden African Football League had been severely diluted, while promising that a 2024-2025 version would involve 24 clubs. It also made no mention of prize money, after CAF president Patrice Motsepe said at the launch in Tanzania last year that the winners would pocket $11.5 million.
The South African billionaire also spoke of “huge interest from broadcasters and sponsors“, but none have been named. There have been unconfirmed reports that cash-rich Saudi Arabia, who have been luring superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo to their domestic championship, might bankroll the African League.
Al Ahly of Egypt, winners of a record 24 CAF competitions including 11 Champions League titles, will be the star attraction of the maiden tournament. Enyimba of Nigeria, Esperance of Tunisia, Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa, TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco are former CAF champions in the field.
The line-up is completed by Petro Luanda of Angola, who reached the 2022 Champions League semi-finals, and Simba of Tanzania, three time quarter-finalists in the competition from 2019. Clubs from each African region were accommodated, which explains the omission of Algerian outfit Chabab Belouizdad, quarter-finalists in the past three Champions League editions.
Explaining the name change, Motsepe said “our friends in Europe advised us not to use the expression ‘super league’. “This advice was based on negative associations with the failed attempt in 2021 to launch a super league in Europe.” A planned European Super League collapsed within 48 hours after a backlash from players, supporters and governments forced nine of the 12 clubs who signed up to pull out.
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