The Confederations of African Football earlier in August launched the African Super League, describing it as “one of the most exciting projects in the history of African football.” The competition, which will comprise 24 of some of the powerhouse clubs of African football, will be played over a 10-month period with clubs selected from three regions.
Expected to be the most lucrative competition in the history of African football, the prize money is valued at over R1.7 billion (USD 100 million), with the winner receiving almost R200 million (USD 11.5 million.)
CAF says, “Some of the funding from the Africa Super League will be used to allocate USD 1 million per annum to each of CAF’s 54 Member Countries, which is a total of USD 54 million per annum to develop football in all the African countries.”
CAF President Motsepe sang the competition’s praises.
“This is one of the most exciting projects in the history of African football and will significantly contribute to the development and growth of the quality and competitiveness of football in Africa.”
Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) President Gianni Infantino says the competition will “boost and improve club football in Africa”.
“African club football needs to be brought to the next level and to do that, it is important to be innovative and to have new ideas, while fully respecting the existing institutional framework. The Africa Super League, built within the international football pyramid structure, is a project which will make African club football shine in Africa and beyond.”
However, while the launch of this competition looks revolutionary on the face of it, there may be chaos and stinky rot brewing beneath the surface. That is according to renowned coach and football analyst, Zipho Dlangalala. The Super League idea was, after all, rejected by football bodies CONMEBOL, UEFA and FIFA, which, he argues, could mean Africa is being used as a guinea pig.
“I am still shocked that Africans are quiet about this malicious move aimed to kill African football using money! These 24 countries represent only 14 countries. Where and what will happen with the other 40 CAF Member countries?” asks Dlangalala.
CAF is made up of 54 member countries and, according to CAF, only 24 teams, with a maximum of three clubs from one country, will take part in the tournament.
But Dlangalala’s question doesn’t seem to just be a random quiz. On a closer look, there seem to be more questions while the same cannot be said about the available answers, which should indeed be worrisome for Africa.
To this date, CAF has not explained why a competition that was rejected in other parts of the world, by better-resourced FIFA confederations, could somehow be to the benefit of African football.
More questions than answers
Where will CAF get the money to sponsor such a big tournament?
What effect will this have on the players who will still have domestic leagues, and cup competitions as well as the CAF Champions League, Confederations Cup compounded by the African Cup of Nations and FIFA World Cup qualifiers and tournaments?
With so much to be made out of the Super League, what reason would the Super League clubs have to play their full-strength squads for their respective domestics and cup competitions, risking injuries to their players? How would this not turn domestic leagues and cup competitions into unimportant competitions?
With all the money the Super League clubs are going to make from this competition, how will other clubs in their respective domestic league be able to compete with them for the best quality players?
All these questions and more remain unanswered and by the time of going to press CAF had still not responded to these questions and more.
However, one of the issues raised by the Football Supporters’ Association’s Premier League Network against the concept was that “These proposals will only widen the gap between rich clubs and the rest, at the same time wrecking domestic league calendars, with the expectation that fans sacrifice yet more time and money attending meaningless group games.”
This after World football was sent into a frenzy in 2021 when AC Milan, Arsenal FC, Atlético de Madrid, Chelsea FC, FC Barcelona, FC Internazionale Milano, Juventus FC, Liverpool FC, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid CF, and Tottenham Hotspur the European Super League. Immediately, UEFA and FIFA saw this as a formation as a rival to the UEFA Champions League – Europe’s premier club football tournament organised by UEFA.
The European Super League idea was immediately rejected by UEFA and FIFA and Football Supporters’ Association’s Premier League Network, among others.
It never saw the light of day!
Major League Soccer and Liga MX also mulled the idea of a Concacaf and Conmebol version of the tournament. Again, it never saw the light of day.
Then came Africa.
A pyramid scheme that will disrupt football
“Now more than ever, Africans should see why the European community and members of clubs rejected this idea. In Conmebol, which, with UEFA, are the two powerhouse confederations who also together rejected outright the idea of a biennial FIFA World Cup, you would not even start talking about something like this. These are people with football heritage of note,” argues Dlangalala before charging, “It’s a pyramid scheme that will disrupt football on the continent, and later fall flat, completely.”
The 24-team tournament will carry 197 matches with a maximum of 21 matches played by the finalists and will include relegation and promotion playoffs. The number of additional matches will come on top of each club’s domestic league commitments, including domestic knockout tournaments, as well CAF Champions League and the CAF Confederations Cup for those who qualify.
This means a possible 70 to 80 matches a season for some clubs – a task a little too steep with logistical nightmares on the players who will have to travel and out of their respective countries, often having to catch connecting flights in either Dubai or France to reach certain continental destinations.
“Europeans want to kill or retard African football. Here, they have found the best way, using the best tool – money. This way, you can forget seeing any African team doing any better than those before at the biggest stage, the FIFA World Cup.”
More unintended consequences
Dlangalala believes one of the unintended consequences of the emergence of the African Super League will also be the CAF Champions League and the Confederations Cup will be left redundant.
“CAF should rebrand the Champions League and the Confederations Cup, instead. Once you have this Super Cup in whatever form, who will care about the domestic league, the Champions League, and the Confederation Cup, if they would still exist? How many players from Africa, in the 24 teams, would be playing compared to those from outside the continent? If indeed football is the game of the people, then let it remain so.”
It is not yet clear when this tournament will kick off, among a plethora of other things that are not clear about this tournament.
If Africa is not a guinea pig, then perhaps it should be asked how come the least developed, least resourced FIFA Confederation which CAF is introducing the most elite club competition? Quite a paradox!