ON THE MARK: doing what's best for Africa

football02 June 2023 11:17| © SuperSport
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For decades African football was all too eager to follow what the Europeans were doing. When Uefa introduced the Champion League in the early 90s, the Confederation of African Football followed suit.

When the European Cup Winners’ Cup and Uefa Cup were folded into a single new competition called the Europa League in 1999, Caf followed with the same idea five years later and the African Confederation Cup was born.

And, when new Caf president Ahmad from Madagascar was looking for fresh ideas to herald his accession to the throne of the African game in 2017, he decided to institute the European way of playing the finals of the two continental club competitions in a single, neutral venue. Up to then, all the finals of African club competitions had been played over two legs, home and away.

But just because it worked with great success in Europe, that didn't necessarily mean it would translate in the African context. Uefa has no problem finding cities seeking the prestige of hosting either the Champions League or Europa League final, whereas Africa battles to find hosts for all its events, even the Cup of Nations.


Shorter distance in Europe and plentiful transport links mean fans of finalist clubs can stream into neutral cities for a weekend away supporting their team. That is not the case in Africa where travel is expensive and distances vast.

The African scenario took a twist last year when Casablanca turned out to be the only city that wanted to host the African Champion League final. Conveniently, of course, because Wydad Casablanca were one of the protagonists. Opponents Al Ahly threatened a boycott of the game but eventually travelled to Morocco, but it was no surprise when they were beaten, given all the odds stacked against them.

Of course, Europe has had club competition finals where one of the teams has come from the host city but final venues are decided long before the competition actually kicks off, so that is by accident, not design. We already know the 2024 Uefa Champion League final is at Wembley and the Europa League decider in Dublin.

Casablanca, however, was appointed host of last year’s Champion League final after the semifinal, so it looked bad even though Caf insisted they had no option because Morocco was the only candidate.


It was an uncomfortable situation for Caf and their new leadership must take some credit for quickly reversing the error.

President Patrice Motsepe did not hesitate to point out that he had inherited the single-match final, and after the Casablanca match he made sure the rules were changed back to the old way of playing over two legs, home and away.

So this Sunday we will see Al Ahly host Wydad in Cairo in the first leg of the final as they reprise last year’s decider, and then the Moroccans host the return leg in Casablanca on 11 June.

This time there was no controversy because all was above board and timeously arranged. A lesson in not always having to follow what Europe does but rather stick to what works for Africa.