AFRICAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Touted as the tournament to alter African soccer, Caf says African Football League will start in October
The competition billed to take African soccer to the next level is scheduled to kick off in three months’ time. Formerly African Super League, it’s now called the African Football League.
It’s been touted as the tournament that will completely alter the landscape of African soccer. Since its conceptualisation a couple of years ago, it has undergone many alterations.
It, of course, is the African Football League. Though many may still know it as the African Super League – its previous moniker before the name change.
“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,” Confederation of African Football (Caf) president Patrice Motsepe previously explained on the name change.
The mother body of African soccer has been stingy with details around the tournament as it works behind the scenes to make it a reality. In a rare sharing of details about the competition this week, it was confirmed that the tournament will commence in late October 2023.
Moreover, the teams set to be part of the pilot season have been trimmed from an initial 24 teams (that were later reduced to 20) that now stands at just eight.
“It will have eight great teams, which will be followed in the future with a bigger version. We have to invest in African club football, as well as national team football,” Fifa president Gianni Infantino said during Caf’s general assembly in Abidjan on Thursday, 13 July.
“It is our responsibility, duty and task, and with the work and contribution of all of us as a team, we will succeed.”
The identities of the eight teams scheduled to participate are yet to be formally confirmed. However, it is difficult to imagine record African champions and Egyptian heavyweights Al Ahly not being included. Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca is also set to be in the mix. As is Tunisia’s Espérance.
Five-time African champions TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo is sure to be among the selections, while 2016 African champions Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa are poised to make the cut too.
All this is an effort to make African soccer globally appealing and attractive, while making it profitable and self-sustaining in future.
“I am confident that the changes and reforms we have introduced in Caf and African football will make football in our member association countries, and on the African continent, globally competitive and self-supporting,” Motsepe reiterated at Thursday’s general assembly.
The Football League is not a replacement of the Caf Champions League, and will run concurrently with it, as well as the Caf Confederation Cup. Nevertheless, information on its official format, sponsorships and broadcast details remains scant just three months before its kick-off date.
World Cup draw
Following the general assembly, Caf conducted the continent’s qualifying draw for 2026 Fifa men’s World Cup. A total of 54 nations will compete for the available spots for Africa, with the qualifiers officially starting in November.
Host of the 2010 edition of the global showpiece, South Africa, faces a stiff challenge from Nigeria to finish at the summit of Group C. The duo is joined by Benin, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Lesotho in vying for the top spot.
The winners of each of the nine groups will automatically book their spot at the tournament, which has been expanded from 32 to 48 teams for 2026 and beyond.
Qatar 2022 semifinalists Morocco will face Zambia, Congo-Brazzaville, Tanzania, Niger and Eritrea, on the road to America. This after being drawn in Group E. They are favourites to comfortably top the mini-league.
Senegal, who was beaten by England in the round of 16 at the most recent edition, is in Group B. It will tackle Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritania, Togo, Sudan and South Sudan.
The four nations that finish as the best runners-up will then play an African playoff competition. The winner during this round will enter into another playoff round with nations from other federations. The overall winner will book a place at the World Cup. DM
Fifa World Cup 2026 qualifying groups for Africa:
Group A: Egypt, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Djibouti.
Group B: Senegal, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritania, Togo, Sudan, South Sudan.
Group C: Nigeria, South Africa, Benin, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Lesotho.
Group D: Cameroon, Cape Verde, Angola, Libya, Eswatini, Mauritius.
Group E: Morocco, Zambia, Congo-Brazzaville, Tanzania, Niger, Eritrea.
Group F: Ivory Coast, Gabon, Kenya, The Gambia, Burundi, Seychelles.
Group G: Algeria, Guinea, Uganda, Mozambique, Botswana, Somalia.
Group H: Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea, Namibia, Malawi, Liberia, Sao Tomè e Principe.
Group I: Mali, Ghana, Madagascar, Central African Republic, Comoros, Chad.