Bending to the will of the European game has left African countries lagging at national level and it’s time they put themselves first, writes Laura Lawrence.Embed from Getty Images
It was announced this week that the Confederation of African Football (Caf) will be launching an African Super League. It’s not a new plan, this has been rumoured to be happening since 2019. But unlike the European Super League, could the African one be beneficial to the continent?
African football has suffered greatly from the leakage of its talent into European clubs. The Africa Cup of Nations, its premier tournament, is much maligned because it takes players away from clubs at crucial parts of the season and it happens every two years unlike other tournaments which are every four years.
This isn’t Caf’s problem. The role of the federation is to look at what’s best for football development in its own continent and bending to the will of European football has left them lagging at a national level. This includes African-born players choosing to play for their adopted nation instead of their country of birth.
Since the turn of the 21st century only three African national teams have made the last 16 of the World Cup — Nigeria, Algeria and Ghana. If African national teams and clubs have ambitions to level the playing field, they must be in position to offer the money. It’s a sad fact of life that this is what it comes down to but to compete to keep their talent, they need investment.
The details are slim at the moment, but there should be more information from the governing body’s conference in Tanzania in August. What we do know is it’s expected to start in 2023 with a prize fund of $100million (£83m).Embed from Getty Images
Caf president Patrice Motsepe said in a statement: “A significant amount of the money from the Caf’s Super League will be invested back into African football and part of the process involves giving £1million every year to every one of Caf’s 54 Member Associations as a contribution to football and youth development.”
This statement is also going to anger European clubs again as Caf have taken the decision to move the 2023 Ivory Coast Africa Cup of Nations back to its usual winter slot in 2024. The decision to move to the summer months had been an act of appeasement but the official line is that the adverse weather in June and July would affect the tournament. After all, a whole World Cup has been moved for precisely the same reason.
We need to see the details before we can analyse whether this has the potential to make a difference. It’s Fifa-endorsed which could be a mixed blessing. For now though, this seems like a step in the right direction. The next step is to elevate African clubs to a level playing field where they can compete with their own players, on their own terms and with the financial ability to persuade players to eventually build stronger national teams.
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