The African Football League will start next month 20th with Simba and Al Ahly opening the newly formed CAF competition in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.
Mamelodi Sundowns’ participation in the tournament has been thrown into doubt just three weeks before the competition’s quarterfinals.
The Africab Football League roars to life on October 20, 2023, a year after CAF formally announced it.
Most Ghanaian clubs popularly Asante Kotoko who have won the CAF Champions League twice and Hearts of Oak who won it in 2000, and appearing in a historic final of the maiden CAF Confederation Cup in 2004 missed out on the African Football League first edition.
In South Africa, Mamelodi Sundowns are the only club to participate in the maiden competition seeing PSL giants Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs who have had less record in African football overlooked.
The teams were drawn from each of the top-ranked leagues on the continent. The Brazilians joined reigning African champions Al Ahly, Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, Esperance, TP Mazembe, Nigeria’s Enyimba, Simba SC from Tanzania, and Petro Atletico from Angola.
The Premier Soccer League Board of Governors met on Thursday, 28 September 2023, to discuss the matter. A Sundowns representative reportedly had to be excused from the meeting. Here are two reasons why the BoG is objecting to the Brazilians’ participation.
Firstly, communication with the PSL was not received until September 16, 2023, after the DStv Premiership season had already started. South Africa’s 2023/24 season kicked off on August 4, 2023.
The fixtures were already done. For the PSL to endorse the Tshwane giants’ participation would mean altering the fixtures and extending the league programme by over three weeks.
Traditionally, the league and promotional/relegation playoffs are concluded by the end of June. That calendar aligns with player contracts, and a scenario where the league would overlap by a month would complicate matters for clubs.
According to the African Football League fixtures released recently, the quarterfinals kick off on October 20, with the second leg of the final set for November 12, 2023. It would mean Downs missing three weeks of action on the domestic scene. They already have the CAF Champions League campaign. In addition, South Africa also has a new cup competition, the Carling Knockout Cup, which slightly extends the season.
Secondly, the communication also came from Rwanda, where the African Football League is headquartered. The letterhead used provides little detail about the organisers. The letter was sent to the CEO of the PSL [Mato Madlala], and SAFA was copied. Indications are that there has been little communication from the continent’s football mother body with the league regarding the tournament.
Sundowns are aware of the developments, but their next step is unclear. An enquiry was sent to the PSL on Friday morning, but the league was yet to respond at the time of publishing. If Sundowns are forced to withdraw from the competition, it would be a major blow to the competition.
African Football League fixtures
Quarterfinal first leg
Friday October 20: Simba vs Al Ahly, Dar-es-Salaam
Saturday, October 21: TP Mazembe vs Esperance, Lubumbashi
Petro Atletico vs Mamelodi Sundowns, Luanda
Sunday, October 22: Enyimba vs Wydad Casablanca, Uyo