I am happy that South Africa has outgrown the ridiculous sentiment that the PSL is in any way more prestigious than the CAFCL. Credit to Roger de Sa and Pitso Mosimane. But we cannot deny that the South African league remains the bar for domestic football on the continent in terms of on and off-pitch management.
Both the South African Premier Division and the CAF Champions League were founded in the late 1990s when football turned 100% commercial. So, how is it that the PSL outdid CAF? The South Africans separated their football from administration politics. The country also demonstrated a greater appetite to explore unique ideas, like the top 8 cup that keeps the midtable interesting.
Now, it is not all failure for CAF. Its competitions have achieved quick wins in the last few years like increased online presence and venues are shedding away that “African feel.” We are still waiting for Horoya AC to put up an artifical pitch or something 😁
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Anyway, CAF still trails in a lot of ways and needs to catch up fast. We will only touch on 7 things PSL does better than CAFCL for now. Check out our list below:
1. Kasi Flava
Kasi Flava can only be a Mzansi thing. And things don’t have to be so over-the-top either. The point here is that there is more entertainment value in watching PSL. I believe most CAFCL fans will admit that the South Africans typically bring good football. It is embarassing that in CAFCL you still see giant clubs opting to defend away from home. This is why every other CAFCL goal is from a setpiece and why we cannot compete at the FIFA Club World Cup.
I know, Sundowns didn’t do wonders there either. But teams need to start playing to their pedigree. I know Al Ahly and Raja Casablanca can readily do it. CAF can support this change by ditching Head-to-Head tie breaker for the Goal Difference and Goal Scored stats.
2. Fan Culture
The South Africans also used to be wild. Orlando Pirates fans would force others to do the skull and bones symbol. Fortunately, the people running football at the other end of Africa decided to make the stands friendly for families and for TV broadcast. You do not get match stoppages or lasers. These vices are CAF’s fault because it has been too soft on belligerence from the Curvas. How many times has smoke from flares clouded out broadcast of important CAFCL matches?
This does not happen when the CAF Super Cup is played in Qatar. It was also conspicuously missing everytime the FIFA Club World Cup was hosted in Africa. The CAFCL needs to be pulled up to this world class standard as well.
3. TV Presence
PSL is broadcast on Supersport. Who doesn’t know that? What’s more is that they have engaging magazine shows that explore different themes throughout the week. This keeps the league in the minds of fans at all times. This approach is even more relevant for CAFCL, which only has a couple matchdays every month. CAF has its Youtube and Facebook platforms as means of actualizing this.
This would continue the push to make the CAF Champions League feel like an African event. Right now, it continues to feel like a North African event. Egypt is not the be all and end all of the CAFCL, eish!
4. Heros and Villains
CAFCL is really bland in this department. Part of fan engagement is creating narrative behind these teams, their players and their fans. Look at how Wydad and Sundowns have managed to get themselves into that African Classico conversation (it is Al Ahly v Esperance Tunis btw). We need to know what Rene Weiler, Sulaya, Walid El Karti, Muleka or whomever have to say. South Africa always pushes the likes of Pitso and Komphela to meme status and it works.
This is the same thing that makes Premier League different from the continental European leagues. Characterization in sport is expectedly from America and is a crucial part of fan engagement. CAF should start by making the Group Stage draws remotely interesting.
5. Match Schedule
The domestic football scene in South Africa features the league and 3 knockout cup competitions. Whether that is one too many is something else. But PSL has always been able to pull off scheduling such that the season finishes in good time. You never have the ridiculous situations in Egypt and Morocco that I will just not talk about. CAF is part to blame for this. They have not had a sit-down with the African leagues to figure out a calendar that works for all – like not having league matches on CAFCL weekends.
This struggle of proper match scheduling is making domestic football management in Africa look hillariously inept. CAF needs to take the lead on this and use the occassion to place CAFCL and CAFCC on a pedestal.
6. Competitive Football
Teams just don’t stroll to the league title in South Africa. Sundowns are trying but failing. On the other hand, CAFCL is in danger of becoming as boring as the UEFA Champions League. It is becoming too much of a show between the same 4 to 6 clubs. And this is only happening because CAF won’t expand the CAFCL group stage to bring in all the big guns to the party. Two qualification slots for the best leagues is simply too limiting because countries like Tunisia have up to 4 teams that can realistically win the CAF Champions League.
It is improper to restrict participation to this knockout tournament to the few wealthy clubs that can mount a title challenge. We know how top heavy domestic leagues in African can be.
PSL teams are not the only ones that complain about CAFCL being a financially unrewarding endeavour. But they are the only ones with a domestic league that can match the carrot dangled by CAF. It is important for CAF to start giving clubs grants to cater for CAF Champions League matchday logistics. They do the same thing in Asia. Where will they get the money? Faouzi Lekjaa said that CAF is negotiating better contracts.