African Football League Prepares for a Modest Debut with Significant Transformations


African Football League Prepares for a Modest Debut with Significant Transformations

Much changed african football league set for modest launch 2023, sport24 live football, sport24 soccer

The African Football League (AFL) is set to kick off in Tanzania on Friday, but it bears little resemblance to its original concept. Launched with much fanfare last year as the CAF Africa Super League, it promised record prize money for an African club competition, including a staggering $11.5 million (10.9 million euros) for the winners.

Initially, the plan involved 24 clubs, with eight from each of the northern, western/central, and southern/eastern regions, selected on merit. These clubs were supposed to receive $2.5 million each in advance for player acquisitions and travel expenses. The tournament was designed to encompass 197 mini-league and knock-out matches, culminating in what CAF president Patrice Motsepe dubbed the “Super Bowl of Africa.”

However, the AFL has faced hurdles in securing sponsors, leading to a significant downsizing of the inaugural edition. Motsepe disclosed to the local media that the name change was prompted by “European friends” who advised removing “Super League” from the title due to the negative connotations associated with the failed 2021 European Super League attempt.

As a result, the first-place prize has been reduced to $4 million, and only eight clubs will participate. Instead of the grand “Super Bowl” finale, a two-leg title decider is now planned.

Just a week before the opening quarter-final first leg between Tanzania’s Simba and Egypt’s Al Ahly, the AFL announced Saudi Arabian tourism body Visit Saudi as its major sponsor.

In the initial matches, TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo will host Esperance of Tunisia, while Petro Luanda of Angola will have home advantage against Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa on Saturday. The last first leg will be held on Sunday in the Nigerian city of Uyo, with Enyimba taking on Moroccan visitors Wydad Casablanca.

The tournament format involves home and away matches with a demanding schedule that may require extensive travel across the continent, concluding on November 11.

Al Ahly and Wydad, who met in the last two CAF Champions League finals, with one victory each, are expected to be top contenders in the AFL.

The tournament’s lead-up has been marred by issues, including the South African Premiership initially barring Sundowns from participating, citing domestic fixture congestion. Later, they reversed the decision, allowing Sundowns, a club owned by Motsepe and managed by his son Tlhopane, to take part.

An anonymous CAF official disclosed that Congolese customs officials blocked the import of VAR equipment for the Mazembe match, and there have been visa delays. Mazembe may need to relocate their home match from Lubumbashi to Dar es Salaam in neighboring Tanzania due to these issues.

Petro is also contesting a two-year suspension imposed by the Angolan football federation for alleged domestic match-fixing.

Marcel Koller, the Swiss-born coach of Ahly, criticized the schedule, pointing out that many players would return to the Cairo club just two days before facing Simba due to the October international window. He expressed concerns, particularly for international players in the Ahly squad, such as Tunisian Ali Maaloul, Malian Aliou Dieng, and South African Percy Tau.


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