By Lwazi Dlamini
The wait is finally over.
After all what has been said and done, the inaugural CAF African Football League (AFL) will kick off on Friday (today) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania with reigning African Champions, Al Ahly facing the home side, Simba FC at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium. Kickoff is at 6:00pm.
According to a report carried by the COSAFA website, the winner of the tournament to feature eight of the best teams in Africa will take home a whooping US$4 million (about E76 million) while the runner’s up will receive US$2.8 million (about E53.2 million).
The semi-finalists will receive US$1.7 million (about E32.3 million) while the quarterfinalists will each win US$900 000 (about E17.1 million). Initially the tournament when announced a year ago, was called the CAF Africa Super League with record prize money for an African club competition, including US$11.5 million (about E218.5 million) to the winners.
A total of 24 clubs – eight each from the North, West/centre and South/East regions chosen on merit – were supposed to compete with each receiving US$2.5 million (about E47.5 million) in advance to buy players and cover travel costs. There were supposed to be 197 mini-league and knockout matches, culminating in a final CAF president Patrice Motsepe said would be the “Super Bowl of Africa”.
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But Motsepe, the South African billionaire, admitted during a press conference on Thursday at Hyatt hotel in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania that the AFL struggled to lure sponsors, resulting in a major downgrading of the first edition. Motsepe told members of the media that the name change came after unnamed “European friends” told CAF they should scrap “Super League” from the title.
“This advice was based on negative associations with the failed attempt in 2021 to launch a super league in Europe,” he said. A planned European Super League collapsed within 48 hours after a backlash from players, supporters and governments forced nine of the 12 clubs who signed up to pull-out.
The first prize has since been slashed to US$4 million (about E76 million) with only eight clubs participating and instead of a “Super Bowl” climax, there will be a two-leg title decider. The AFL has named Saudi Arabian Tourism body, ‘Visit Saudi’ as its major sponsor a week before Friday’s (today) opening clash between Tanzania’s Simba FC and reigning African Champions, Al Ahly of Egypt.
THE AFL FIXTURES:
Benjamin Mkapa Stadium
Simba FC (Tanzania) vs Al Ahly (Egypt) 6:00pm
Estadio 11 de Novembro
Pedro Luanda (Angola) vs Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa) 3:30pm
Benjamin Mkapa Stadium
TP Mazembe (DR Congo) vs Esperance Tunis (Tunisia) 6:00pm
Goodwill Akpabo Stadium
Enyimba FC (Nigeria) vs Wydad Athletic Club (Morocco) 6:00pm
AFL PRIZE MONIES:
1. Champions US$4 million (about E76 million)
2. Runner’s up US$2.8 million (about E53.2 million)
3. Semifinalists US$1.7 million (about E32.3 million)
4. Quarterfinalists US$900 000 (about E17.1 million)