The African Football League is not just another addition to the world of football; it represents a significant shift in the landscape of African sports. As it comes to fruition, this innovative league promises not only to elevate the quality of football in Africa but also to provide a platform for local talent to shine on the global stage. In a continent where football is deeply ingrained in the culture and is a powerful force for social change, the potential impact of this league is immeasurable.
The financial rewards that accompany it may help retain and attract top talent, stemming the flow of African players to other leagues around the world. Moreover, this league has the potential to captivate audiences both within and outside Africa, generating excitement and further cementing football as a central part of African life. As it takes its first steps, the African Football League is poised to bring about a football renaissance that could see Africa rise to prominence in the global football arena, all while redefining the economic and social dynamics of the sport across the continent.
The Genesis of the African Football League
In Europe, there were suggestions to start a new competition called the Super League, which would have included 80 teams and promised massive financial returns. However, FIFA and UEFA strongly opposed this idea, warning of dire consequences for clubs interested in joining.
In contrast, FIFA President Gianni Infantino and CAF President Patrice Motsepe were enthusiastic about the concept and decided to execute it in Africa. Their vision for the African Football League was met with enthusiasm and scepticism, resulting in mixed opinions within the football community.
Justification for Having the Africa Football League
FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, argued that this new tournament would benefit Africa by exposing it to the world and providing significant financial rewards for the participating clubs. He stated,
“There is a huge will to invest in a project like this, which will give a new visibility to African football. The growth of African club and national team football contributes to the growth of world football. The competition will benefit each and every country, not just with the solidarity payment, but the exposure for African football.”
“We have to take the 20 best African clubs (which was later reduced to eight) and put them in an Africa league. Such a league could make at least $200m in revenue, which would put it among the top 10 in the world,” he added.
During the 44th Ordinary General Assembly held in 2022, CAF’s president, Patrice Motsepe, explained further how participants would benefit from the project, emphasizing the importance of commercial viability and spectator engagement in local football.
As with any ambitious project, opinions on the African Football League are divided. Some, like former Simba SC CEO Barbara Gonzalez and Kaizer Chiefs Marketing Director Jessica Motaung, welcome the idea, seeing it as a way to grow the sport and generate more revenue. Gonzalez stated, “This is a great idea to have another tournament where teams can play and also make money. But let us wait for more details about the tournament. Football is about business and every time more money is coming in this is very positive. As a Club we are very happy that the Africa Super League has now been launched and we can’t wait for it to start next year,”
However, not everyone shares this enthusiasm. Cape Town City owner John Comitis strongly criticized the idea, calling it a “super silly idea” and expressing concerns about the impact on domestic leagues. Nevertheless, the project moved forward with some adjustments.
Teams in the Inaugural African Football League
The first edition of the African Football League will feature eight teams, each representing different African countries. Here’s a look at the participating clubs:
- Al Ahly (Egypt)
- Wydad Casablanca (Morocco)
- Esperance (Tunisia)
- Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa)
- TP Mazembe (DR Congo)
- Enyimba (Nigeria)
- Simba SC (Tanzania)
- Petro Atletico (Angola)
These clubs were chosen based on their performance in their respective leagues and their potential to make the competition exciting and competitive.
Format and Schedule
The competition’s format involves two-legged ties played on a home-and-away basis. The aggregate winner of each tie advances to the semi-finals. The schedule for the inaugural African Football League is as follows:
- First leg matches: October 20th and 21st
- Second leg matches: October 24th and 25th
- Semi-finals: October 29th and November 1st
- First leg of the final: November 5th
- Second leg of the final: November 11th
The overall winner of the competition will receive a significant prize of $4 million, with runners-up awarded $3 million. Semi-finalists will take home $1.7 million, and those eliminated in the first round will receive $1 million.
The African Football League is set to be a game-changer for African football, offering not only financial rewards for clubs but also an opportunity to showcase African talent on the global stage. As the competition unfolds, football enthusiasts around the world will be closely watching to see how it impacts the continent’s football landscape.