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African Super League delayed, fewer clubs, name change mooted

The CAF Africa Super League will kick off two months late in October and have only eight clubs instead of the planned 24, CAF president Patrice Motsepe said on Sunday.

South African billionaire Motsepe told public broadcaster SABC in Johannesburg that the competition name may be changed as some sponsors are unhappy with the word ‘Super’.

He did not give details about prize money, the format, or the names of the qualifiers for the first edition, which it is believed will be staged in October and November.

AFP understands the line-up will include 2023 CAF Champions League semi-finalists Al Ahly of Egypt, Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, Esperance of Tunisia and Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa.

TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Enyimba of Nigeria, Simba of Tanzania and Petro Atletico of Angola may also take part.

This list is sure to anger some countries, especially Algeria, whose clubs have been excluded despite good performances in recent seasons.

Chabab Belouizdad have reached the quarter-finals of the last three Champions Leagues and USM Alger won the second-tier CAF Confederation Cup this season.

Enyimba have not reached the Champions League knockout stage since 2011, but it would be unthinkable to have an Africa Super League without the most populous country in the continent.

Mazembe are the equal second most successful club in CAF competitions with 11 titles, but have fared poorly in recent seasons, losing five of six 2023 Confederation Cup group matches.

Motsepe said CAF “know the dates” but did not reveal them, then explained why some major sponsors have a problem with the title.

‘Negative connotations’ 

“Some sponsors say the history of the Super League in Europe was not good and if you associate the name ‘super’ with a football competition, it has negative connotations.

“A name change is, therefore, on the agenda,” conceded Motsepe, who succeeded Malagasy Ahmad Ahmad as the boss of African football by acclamation in Morocco two years ago.

A planned European Super League collapsed within 48 hours in 2021 after a backlash from fans, governments and players, which forced nine of the 12 teams who signed up to pull out.

The founding members were Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Motsepe and FIFA president Gianni Infantino launched the Super League last August in the Tanzanian town of Arusha amid much fanfare.

“The Super League is one of the most exciting developments in the history of African football… our objective is to see our clubs compete with the best in the world,” Motsepe said.

“The intention is to use $100 million as prize money and to do that every year so that the club which wins gets $11.5 million.”

CAF club competition entrants have constantly complained about prize money, saying it does not even cover expenses like travel and accommodation.

The Cairo based confederation did increase prize money last season with the Champions League winners receiving four million dollars — up from $2.5 million.

There was also a boost to the top prize in the Confederation Cup — the African equivalent of the  Europa League — with the winners pocketing two million dollars.