The recently introduced African Football League wants to reshape football on the continent. It showcases top-tier club football in Africa and is intent on reshaping fundamentals like broadcasting, sponsorship and prize money. It’s also getting widespread support, already.
Bonface Orucho, bird story agency
The African Football League (AFL) made its grand debut on October 20, heralding a new era in African football. This unique pan-African super league has brought together the continent’s elite club teams, and its inauguration was nothing short of spectacular.
The Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam, filled to capacity with 60,000 fans, set the stage for the opening ceremony. It was followed by an electrifying inaugural match between Simba Sports Club and Egypt’s Al Ahly, which ended in a thrilling 2-2 draw.
Notable figures including Zanzibar President Hussein Ali Mwinyi, CAF President Patrice Motsepe, FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development, Arsene Wenger, and FIFA’s Gianni Infantino, attended the opening ceremony, highlighting the league’s significance both locally and globally.
“Tanzania should be proud of what we are witnessing here today,” Motsepe told the captivated audience.
The action didn’t stop there, as the first quarter’s opening weekend featured more exciting matches. South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns secured a convincing 2-0 victory over Angola’s Petro de Luanda in the Angolans’ home stadium, ‘Estádio Nacional 11 de Novembro.’ DRC’s TP Mazembe clinched a narrow 1-0 win against ES Tunis, while Enyimba faced a 1-0 loss to Wydad Casablanca.
The participating teams, carefully selected from the top-ranked leagues across Africa, represent the pinnacle of football prowess on the continent.
Notably, the AFL has immediately become the richest club tournament in Africa, offering a grand prize of US$4 million for the winners and US$3 million for the runners-up. The four quarter-finalists will receive US$1 million each, and the semi-finalists will take home US$1.7 million apiece.
The AFL’s second edition is poised to be even bigger, with plans to accommodate 22 teams, signifying an expansion in scale and greater inclusivity of clubs from across the continent.
The league will also feature an extended format, running throughout the season, to provide fans with a more prolonged and engaging football experience.
Beyond the on-field action, the league has sparked developments in supportive sectors that could elevate African football.
Local broadcasters are actively securing broadcasting rights for the tournament, addressing a long-standing gap in African football coverage.
While major broadcasters like Supersport are absent, homegrown broadcasters are filling the void, alongside over-the-internet streaming platforms, ensuring that thousands of fans across the continent can enjoy the matches.
Notably, Egyptian OnTime Sports TV channels have recently announced they have successfully secured broadcasting rights for the league, joining other broadcasters in the Mediterranean region, such as beIN Media Group and Abu Dhabi Sports. These, along with South Africa’s SABC, FIFA+, and the AFL website’s streaming service, are bringing the action to football fans.
The competition has also attracted unique sponsorships, with Saudi Arabia’s tourism authority, ‘Visit Saudi,’ playing a pivotal role. Additionally, African sponsors for the inaugural edition include Rwanda through the Rwanda Development Board, RwandAir, and Rwanda’s Ministry of Sports.
The AFL was founded with the vision of enhancing the quality of football in Africa and fostering financial growth for participating clubs and stakeholders. It stands as a celebration of football excellence and camaraderie across the African continent.
As Motsepe explained during the trophy reveal, “This league seeks to make African football attractive to the huge football fan community on the continent.”
Importantly, the league reaffirms the underlying growth of football in Africa. CAF has over the past two years made significant improvements in football in Africa, ranging from raising prize money to rolling out competitions such as the African Schools Football Championships.
CAF Super Cup tournament prize money, for instance, has recently been raised to US $750000 from US $500000.
Other reviews have seen a 46% increment in the Champions League and Confederation Cup prizes, a 150% increase in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, a raise of AFCON prize money to US $5 million, and an increase in CHAN prize money by 45%.
“African football is growing so fast, things are not the same anymore… Young players can today have hope of turning their talent into a profession,” explains Kennedy Okello, a Kenyan coach and former footballer.
“This league, especially, will eventually be like our little World Cup. Through it, we build unity around the sport… This will grow into something great in the future if it gets enough support,” he adds.
bird story agency