Confusion over launch date for African Football League

CAF confirmed at a meeting of their top officials in Abidjan on Thursday that the African Football League would kick off in October, but there is confusion over the starting date.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino, a guest speaker in the Ivory Coast commercial capital, said the eagerly awaited debut of the club competition would be on Friday October 20.

But the official CAF website said the eight-team first edition would kick off one day later, on Saturday October 21.

The African Football League is the new name for what was launched last year in Tanzania as the CAF Africa Super League.

CAF president Patrice Motsepe told South African public broadcaster SABC in June that the name change was necessary because some major sponsors had a problem with the original title.

“Some sponsors say the history of the Super League in Europe was not good and if you associate the name ‘super’ with a football competition, it has negative connotations,” said Motsepe.

Speaking more recently to Qatar-based BeIN Sport, the CAF president said: “Our friends in Europe advised us not to use the expression ‘super league’.

“(They based this advice on) negative associations with the recent failed attempt in European football.”

A planned European Super League collapsed within 48 hours in 2021 after a backlash from fans, governments and players, which forced nine of the 12 teams who signed up to pull out.

The founding members were Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

– Little known –

Infantino has repeatedly stressed that the situation in Africa is different from Europe with the African League backed by FIFA and CAF.

Three months before the competition begins, little is known about it beyond the name change, an October 20 or 21 kick-off and a field reduced from 24 clubs to eight that have not been named.

AFP understands the line-up will included 2023 CAF Champions League winners Al Ahly of Egypt, runners-up Wydad Casablanca of Morocco and semi-finalists Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa and Esperance of Tunisia.

The other entrants could be recently crowned Nigerian champions Enyimba, 11-time CAF title winners TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Petro Luanda of Angola and Simba of Tanzania.

“There will be eight great teams, which will be followed in the future with a bigger version. We have to invest in African club football as well as national team football,” said Infantino.

“It is our responsibility, duty and task, and with the work and contributions of all of us as a team, we will succeed.”

CAF have said that their main annual competitions before the African Football League launches — the Champions League and Confederation Cup — will continue.

Delegates to the Abidjan meeting heard that CAF commercial revenue rose 17 percent to $125 million (EUR111 mn) in the past financial year thanks to media rights and sponsorship increases.

The Cairo-based organisation are hoping for a major revenue boost next year as their biggest money-spinner, the Africa Cup of Nations, will be staged in the Ivory Coast from January 13.

Defending champions Senegal are among 15 nations who have secured places and the other nine will be known in September when the final qualifiers are played. -BSS

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