Is it too late to give my input on the African Super League story? Doesn’t matter. The election of Patrice Motsepe as CAF President was overshadowed by speculation about plans to establish an African version of the European Super League.
Meat to this story came from a reputable source. Simba SC CEO, Barbara Gonzalez, posted what would be a controversial tweet about how discussions about an African Super League were well underway. What’s more, she said that Simba not only welcomed the idea but that the club would be part of it.
Many people would expect me to support such a radical transformation of club football in Africa. After all, I have been a proponent of experiments on football competition format in Africa. This has ranged from harmless stuff like expanding the CAFCL Group Stage to getting rid of promotion and relegation in African football leagues. I have made strong cases for my views, btw.
I cannot say the same for Gianni Infantino and his sycophants leading African football. There is no solid basis for establishing an African Super League. The best guess that I can make is that it is a scheme by the man to test football competition formats for the future and gain himself and his stooges a few million dollars.
This is a bad idea dear Miss (or is it Mrs?) Barbara Gonzalez. Here are four reasons why:
1. It Ignores other Solutions to Develop Club Football in Africa
This idea is copied from Europe. Well, the thing is that Europe is at a point where they can pursue a continent-wide league as next step for their game. Club football over there is so intergrated that the clubs even have an association to lobby for their case to UEFA.
We haven’t even gotten a Soweto Derby, a Casablanca Derby, even a Kenyan club (haha) into the CAF Champions League group stage. We have not seen the result of expanding the CAFCL Group Stage to 32 teams – this, at a time when other continents are expanding their Champions League Group Stages.
Nobody has talked about other ideas like inter-country leagues. We know Belgium and Netherlands will go this route at some point. I think Maghreb can consider this. Other regions like East Africa and West Africa can also pursue it.
2. It is an “unAfrican Solution”
Barbara Gonzalez must be lying. They clearly have not thought this idea through. I know that it is said that teams will join the league based on their ability to invest the $20 million required annually for 5 years. Does this mean that any club with deep pockets can join? Are there limits per country as was the case with the European Super League idea?
At the moment we can imagine that Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia and Morocco would take up almost 13 or so slots in this 20-team league based on that money contribution idea. But what happens to Yanga SC if Simba SC joins? What happens to Club Africain if it is stated that only 3 clubs from Tunisia can join?
The idea just extrapolates the situation in Europe to Africa. Barcelona being dominant in Europe affects the Dutch League materially. This is not the case in Africa. Al Ahly and its many CAFCL titles has zero effect on the PSL, for example. The club game in Africa is top heavy but not in a manner similar to Europe.
3. Nobody will Watch it
Building on point 2, the African Super League would not have the impact with audiences that the brains behind it would hope for. The reason is related to how I closed the previous point. A Kenyan will not be dissuaded from watching the Premier League just because Horoya have a few Kenyan players in that league. I know this because Olunga became J League MVP and yet nobody watched it.
What works is CAFCL Group Stage expansion. I know this because Kenyan got interested in CAF interclub competitions when they saw Gor Mahia in the CAF Confederation Cup Group Stage. Ditto with South Africa and CAFCL.
The only thing an African Super League would do at this point is kill club football in Africa. It would not reverse flow of the best African footballers to Europe. Richer leagues like Brazil, MLS and J League still lose players to top European Leagues. Worse, the league would have no audience. The organizers are overstating the cross-country league interest in Africa.
4. The Approach is Wrong
I am going to help out the African Super League organizers a little here. If they want more help, they can email me.
What generates the kind of fanatism that these guys hope for in Africa is international football. This means that the clubs for the Super League should band around flags and not the long standing institutions we have. So, you end up having totally new football teams for a new type of football competition.
A relatable concept would be a PSL XI vs Egypt Premier League XI (or CHAN that actually matters, haha). But that would have to be a parallel competing system to what we have. Let’s get radical, no?