African Cup reset to 2024, CAF launches Super League

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — The next African Cup of Nations will clash again with the European season and likely spark more friction and discontent between clubs and countries over the release of players after organizers decided to postpone it until January 2024.

The decision was announced on Sunday by the Confederation of African Football and was prompted by weather in host country Côte d’Ivoire, CAF said.

The tournament was slated to take place in June and July 2023 – a slot chosen to coincide with the summer break of European competitions – but Côte d’Ivoire will experience heavy rain at that time of year, which has threatened to seriously affect Africa’s showpiece tournament. to influence.

CAF said it had received a report from a tech group that hosting the African Cup in Côte d’Ivoire mid-year would have “adverse” effects.

It was a known issue for CAF, which had made a long-term commitment to move the African Cup from the traditional January-February period to the middle of the year.

But a decision in 2014 to host three consecutive Africa Cups in Central and West Africa undermined that due to the problematic mid-year weather in that part of the continent. This year’s tournament in Cameroon was also scheduled to be played in June and July, but also had to be moved to the end of January-February due to the monsoon season in Cameroon. The next African Cup after Ivory Coast is in Guinea, another West African country, and could cause the same problem.

European clubs have consistently complained that they have been forced to release some of their biggest stars for at least a month for the Africa Cup of Nations as they face the pivotal build-up to their league season. The African Cup also comes every two years and not every four like other major international football tournaments.

Prior to Cameroon’s Africa Cup of Nations, some clubs threatened to block their players, although Africa’s biggest names such as Sadio Mane from Senegal, Mohamed Salah from Egypt and Riyad Mahrez from Algeria did play. World body FIFA eventually found a compromise by allowing clubs to delay the release of their players for the Africa Cup, but that also creates problems on the other side when African teams have less time – sometimes just days – to prepare their players. to prepare for the summit of their continent tournament.

CAF also announced on Sunday that the executive committee had given the green light to a new Super League for the African club to be played from 2023, crucially with FIFA’s support.

The new Super League will have a total prize pool of $100 million, said CAF president Patrice Motsepe.

“We have been inundated with investors and sponsors eager to partner with us in the CAF Super League,” added Motsepe.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has publicly supported the idea of ​​an African Super League, despite FIFA’s fierce opposition to the ultimately doomed European Super League.

Infantino said earlier this year that the African Super League, which has been talked about since 2019, will be “a very different proposition”.

“It’s not a breakaway competition at all. It is an African Super League integrated into the institutional structures of African and global football,” said Infantino. “The second big difference is that this is an open competition, allowing four teams to be promoted and also relegated if they don’t perform.”

CAF did not provide details on the final structure of the Super League and how it would stand alongside Africa’s existing Champions League club tournament. The details, including the official name of the tournament, would be announced next month, CAF said.

African football is in dire need of an overhaul, with the African Cup of Nations, the only real money tournament on the continent.

Kanjere reported from Blantyre, Malawi.

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