By: Gyang Dakwo
The African Football League (AFL), a new continental super league competition involving eight teams, kicked off to a capacity 60,000-strong crowd in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania on Friday with home side Simba drawing 2-2 with Africa’s most successful team Al Ahly of Egypt.
The two teams were playing a quarter-final first leg and will meet again in Cairo on Tuesday in the return fixture.
CAF and FIFA say the AFL will raise the quality of African club football, make it more watchable and appealing to a wider audience, and dramatically boost revenues to fund improvements to infrastructure and conditions in football across the continent. It is also expected to encourage more players to remain in Africa rather than moving to Europe.
“We have recognised for many years that African football players have been among the best in the world, but we have to improve the appeal of African football, its commercial viability and its capacity to sustain itself,” CAF president Patrice Motsepe, billionaire businessman and owner of South Africa’s champions Mamelodi Sundowns, said in July when confirming the launch of the eight-team version.
CAF had previously said the eight-team format is a precursor to a bigger competition next year.
The other six clubs in this year’s event – Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa), Petro de Luanda (Angola), TP Mazembe (DRC), Es Tunis (Tunisia), Enyimba International (Nigeria) and Wydad Casablanca (Morocco) – will play their first matches this weekend and the aggregate winners advance to the semi-finals.