Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1296, (19 - 25 May 2016)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1296, (19 - 25 May 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Africa’s new look

Starting 2017, the African Champions League and Confederation Cup will see major new changes, Abeer Anwar reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Change has come to African club football. Sixteen clubs divided into four groups of four will now participate in the group stages of the African Champions League instead of the current eight at the pool stage. The same will hold true for the second-tier club competition, the Confederation Cup.

The new format was one of the key highlights of the address given by Confederation of African Football (CAF) President Issa Hayatou at the 38th CAF ordinary General Assembly held in Mexico City.

The Champions League and Confederation Cup group stages will each double to 16 teams in 2017, the CAF said.

Hayatou also unveiled the CAF’s progression in the wake of the new reforms implemented by FIFA. He talked about the establishment, composition and the roadmap of a working group on the CAF reforms to delegates representing the 54 member associations.

Amr Shahin, head of the marketing section at CAF, told the media that he had been for the new format since 2011 when he first proposed it because it gives a better chance to the clubs that are forced to drop out of the CAF Champions League to do their best in the Confederation Cup.

Shahin added that this will attract more fans to the event and more money to the clubs as a consequence.

Those who oppose the idea of change think that the European Champions League system should not apply to the African continent because travelling through Africa is far more expensive and hectic than doing so in Europe. They also argue that the new format will affect the big teams that will now be forced to play more matches with other teams that are below standard, thus adding more undue pressure to the players.
The working group will be chaired by CAF Executive Committee Mohamed Raouraoua and is expected to submit its report in September, which will be subject to the approval of the Executive Committee and the General Assembly. For this purpose, an extraordinary General Assembly has been fixed for Thursday, 29 September in Cairo, to proceed with the adoption of the reforms.

Hayatou also touched on the continued commitment to invest “without any weakness to the preservation and respect of the pillars” that underpins CAF: unity and solidarity.

Like any ordinary session of the General Assembly, the 38th edition confirmed the financial health of CAF, which stands at close to $127 million as of June last year.

Hayatou also highlighted his belief that Africa should be given more places at future World Cup tournaments, referring to recent African success at age-restricted tournaments to support his view.

“The Under-17 World Cup in 2015 featured two African teams, Nigeria and Mali, who contested the finals, with Nigeria getting the victory,” he said.

“With the Under-20 World Cup (also in 2015), we witnessed inter-African confrontation between Senegal and Mali during the third place game.

“It becomes clearly apparent that a better representation of our continent at those levels in the World Cup would be justice. The consistency of the performances of African teams in these age-category competitions advocates that.”

Five African countries currently represent the continent in the World Cup.

Meanwhile, Uganda have been disqualified from qualifying for the 2017 Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations for fielding an ineligible player.

The offence occurred in the first round, second-leg match against Rwanda, which Uganda won 2-1 to secure a 3-2 aggregate victory.

However, Uganda’s Aheebwa James had different dates of birth on his passport and his inter-clubs license.

Rwanda have been reinstated and will take on Egypt in the second round.

The Rwandan Football Federation had challenged the eligibility of Tumwesigye Frank, Aheebwa James, Lwalirwa Halid and Kizza Martin.

Only James was found to have different birth dates: 19/5/1998 on the passport and 27/3/1997 on his Confederation of African Football inter-clubs license.

Although both dates place James within the age limit for the competition, the rules state that both dates must match.

On another note, FIFA has suspended the Benin Football Federation (FBF) from global football after a court ruling in the country blocked upcoming elections.

In a statement, FIFA said the Benin Football Association (FBF) was suspended with immediate effect “due to a recent injunction by a local judicial court which impeded the holding of the due election”.

It means Benin are set to miss June’s 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Equatorial Guinea.

A court ruling in Benin on 4 May prevented the FBF from holding presidential elections and the suspension will be lifted only after a new Executive Committee has been installed.

Benin are currently second in Group C, two points behind group leaders Mali. They are due to host Equatorial Guinea on the weekend of 3-5 June and then travel to face Mali in September.

Only the group winners guaranteed a place at the 2017 finals in Gabon but Benin are currently the best of the second-placed teams and could qualify as one of the two best runners-up.

The FIFA Council meeting also ratified a recent decision of the bureau of the council to appoint a normalisation committee to run the daily affairs of the Guinea Football Federation.

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