The African Football League is ready for kick-off this weekend, with its opening game in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, but the competition is already facing problems that could jeopardize its survival.
The idea for the competition was grand, but things aren’t going to script with CAF scaling it down with the hopes it could gain traction and become what they dreamed of.
The hype that preceded the competition last year is dwindling. The competition was called the CAF Africa Super League, with record prize money for an African club competition, including $11.5 million to the winners.
The participating teams were to get $2.5 million each in advance to buy players and cover travel costs, but all that has gone with the wind.
The struggles to lure sponsors led South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe to downgrade the first edition of what was supposed to be the Super Bowl of Africa.
— Alikiba (@OfficialAliKiba) October 18, 2023
African Football League: Simba vs Al Ahly
With the African Football League set for a modest kick-off, Simba will highlight the competition with the opening tie against Al Ahly in Tanzania.
The two teams are no strangers to each other, having clashed a few times in the CAF Champions League.
Simba of Tanzania has clashed with Al Ahly in the CAF Champions League twice.
In 2019, Al Ahly won 5-1 on aggregate. They beat the Tanzanian side 5-0 in the first leg and lost the second leg 1-0.
In 2021, both sides found themselves in Group A, and Simba won 1-0 at home and lost by the same scoreline in the return leg.
However, Simba finished top of the group with 13 points but crashed out in the quarter-finals. They lost 4-3 aggregate to Kaizer Chiefs.
Al Ahly won the competition, beating Kaizer Chiefs 3-0 in the final.
The game might not be played under the initial heightened expectations, but it should still be a cracker as both teams are some of Africa’s heavyweights.
The African Football League is a madhouse
While Simba will kick off the African Football League with a tie against Al Ahly on Friday, Enyimba will host Moroccan side Wydad Casablanca in the last first-leg ties in Uyo on Sunday.
In what is a crazy schedule that will have an impact on the various domestic leagues, the African Football League will feature home and away matches in each round, with lengthy trips that spread across the continent and conclude on November 11.
The madhouse the African Football League represents sees several teams with issues.
The South African Premiership initially banned their champions, Mamelodi Sundowns, from participating in the competition, citing domestic fixture congestion.
They later did a U-turn and allowed the team owned by Motsepe, and run by his son Tlhopane, to participate in the competition.
TP Mazembe have arrived safely in Tanzania. 🇨🇩🛬🇹🇿
— Micky Jnr (@MickyJnr__) October 19, 2023
Other issues that beset the competition
Reports suggest that Congolese customs officials blocked VAR equipment for the Mazembe match. There have also been delays in issuing visas.
The move led TP Mazembe to move their match from Lubumbashi to Dar es Salaam in neighbouring Tanzania.
Petro Atletico are in a battle contesting a two-year suspension by the Angolan football federation for alleged domestic match-fixing.
The schedule for the African Football League was criticised by Swiss-born Ahly coach Marcel Koller.
He said many of his players will return to the Cairo club only two days before facing Simba due to the October internationals window.
.@EnyimbaFC are getting ready for their African Football League game against Wydad on Sunday.
— NPFL News 🇳🇬 (@NPFL_News) October 18, 2023
African Football League: Almost a stillbirth
The competition was birthed with the name CAF Africa Super League but changed to the African Football League.
Motsepe claimed some unnamed European friends told CAF to scrap the Super League from the title because it had negative associations with the failed attempt in 2021 to launch a Super League in Europe.
Other problems, ranging from sponsorship to broadcast, saw the first prize slashed to four million dollars, with only eight clubs participating, and instead of a Super Bowl climax, there will be a two-leg title decider.
The African Football League named the Saudi Arabian tourism body Visit Saudi as its major sponsor just seven days before Simba of Tanzania host African giants Al Ahly of Egypt.
TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo host Esperance of Tunisia and Petro Luanda of Angola have a home advantage over Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa on Saturday.
African Football League Fixtures
|Al Ahly (EGY)|
|TP Mazembe (COD)||
|Wydad Casablanca (MAR)|
|Petro Luanda (ANG)||
|Mamelodi Sundowns (RSA)|
This article was most recently revised and updated 1 month ago