Can the African Super League Succeed when the European Super League Failed?

By Boris Esono Nwenfor*

.Patrice Motsepe, CAF President

On April 18, the global sporting world was united against the proposed European Super League which will involve a select few participating years in year out. European governing body, UEFA was against the idea and even FIFA’s President Gianni Infantino was against the idea.

Within a couple of hours, the majority of the clubs involved in the proposed league backtracked and the competition died an untimely death. Football breathes a sigh of relief not knowing that this same idea had been proposed to the African continent by a man who was against the ESL idea, Gianni Infantino. 

This, therefore, begs the question of what the motive Gianni Infantino has on the continent and if he had a share of the cake with the European Super League he would have a campaign against it.

A close-shop like the European Super League

Infantino raised the idea first in 2019 saying it would comprise 20 permanent member clubs plus others that would qualify via regional competitions, predicting the Super League with a payment of $20m every year over five years would have the potential to generate a revenue of $3 billion over a five-year cycle.

The creation of an African Super League could make it one of the top ten football competitions in the world, changing the financial reality of football on the continent, according to the FIFA President.

“We have had some serious problems in Africa and it has to change. It has to change the way of how to do business, it has to take on board the basic elements of good governance,” he said.

“There needs to be proper competition infrastructure. I think it is fair to say that the competitions in Africa are 30-to-40 times less successful than in Europe,” he said on Monday.

The criteria for selecting the 20 clubs have yet to be made known which beg the question Will it be based on the CAF club coefficient? On historical performance? On club profile and followership? And what will happen to the CAF Confederations Cup and CAF Champions League?

Al Ahly, reigning African champions and the most successful club in the continent’s history, is reportedly vehemently opposed to the idea. However, other clubs have already jumped on the bag wagon and campaigning for a place in the proposed new competition.

Simba CEO Barbara Gonzalez after the election of the new CAF President promptly tweeted to the effect that plans to execute the Super League were underway.

“It was great catching up with FIFA President, Gianni Infantino on the sidelines of the CAF Elections 2021. The rollout of the African Super League with 20 permanent member clubs is underway. We look forward to having Simba SC Tanzania participate soon.”

Wydad Casablanca celebrates winning CAF Super Cup

CAF President Patrice Motsepe in Support of African Super League

The hand of Infantino is impossible to miss in the politics of the continent’s football, and so it was that, upon the confirmation of Motsepe, he was present. FIFA president was seen as a close ally of the former CAF President Ahmad Ahmad who was banned from football-related activities due to mismanagement.

And it seems the new CAF President Patrice Motsepe is looking to be an ally of Infantino with the CAF President already loving the idea saying it was needed to improve the game on the continent and make it financially viable.

“We are assessing and in preliminary discussions to start an inclusive and broadly supported and beneficial CAF African Super League,” he said in a statement. “We have been following the attempts by some top European clubs to form a Euro Super League and will learn from their experience and pitfalls.”

Motsepe said CAF, which is African football’s controlling body, must consider new competitions to generate additional income for itself and its member associations and “also contribute to African football becoming globally competitive and self-sustaining.”

Motsepe, who took on the job in March, also said that CAF’s image needed improving. “There is a poor perception of CAF concerning its adherence to governance, auditing, ethical, and financial and management good practices,” he said.

Dr Patrice Motsepe added: “These negative perceptions may, to some extent, be confirmed by the incriminating and damning audit which identified irregular, unethical and improper transactions and conduct.”

“CAF should be seen as a body that adheres to good governance, ethics and financial and management best practices. It is also important that the quality of [our] competitions are globally competitive and appealing to spectators, viewers and interested parties in Africa and globally.”

FIFA President Gianni Infantino

Why is the world silent about the African Super League?

On April 18, the birth of the European Super League was announced by Real Madrid president Florentino Perez to the dissatisfaction of managers, players and European and World Football governing bodies.

“I can only say my personal opinion. I do not like it and hopefully, it does not happen,” Liverpool player James Milner said about the proposition of the ESL.

“I fell in love with popular football, with the football of the fans, with the dream of seeing the team of my heart compete against the greatest,” PSG Player Ander Herrera wrote on Twitter.

“If this European Super League advances, those dreams are over, the illusions of the fans of the teams that are not giants of being able to win on the field competing in the best competition will end.”

The world seems to be silent on this idea being proposed by FIFA President on the African continent. The voices who were against the ESL seemingly have forgotten about that being proposed to Africa.

“What this accurately conveys is that, for all that the proposed profit margins are heady and exciting; the demand for an African Super League is pretty much nil. It is an idea that, in its current guise, benefits no agenda but Fifa’s,” Solace Chukwu wrote in a piece for Goal.

*Culled from July Issue of PAV Magazine

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