FIFA President Gianni Infantino sees the new African Football League (AFL) as “a great and effective way of taking African football to the next level”, he said when addressing those gathered in Cairo, Egypt, for the draw of the continental competition’s inaugural edition.
The AFL is the latest result of the fruitful partnership between the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and FIFA, and its debut format will bring together eight of Africa’s most famous and successful teams with the aim of highlighting the quality of the game on the continent.
“At FIFA, it is our mission to make football truly global, and we have always believed in the development of football in Africa, something our FIFA Forward programme has helped underline,” said Mr. Infantino in a recorded video message. “This competition is a great and effective way of taking African football to the next level, and that is something I am personally delighted to see.”
The draw, featuring teams from across the entire continent, was as follows: Simba Sports Club (Tanzania) v Al Ahly FC (Egypt), Tout Puissant Mazembe (Congo DR) v Espérance Sportive de Tunis (Tunisia), Enyimba Football Club (Nigeria) v Wydad Athletic Club (Morocco) and Atlético Petróleos de Luanda (Angola) v Mamelodi Sundowns FC (South Africa).
Mr Infantino said the competition would drive foreign and domestic investment in African football, provide the perfect stage for the continent’s best clubs and players to compete against each other and engage more fans, both in Africa and the rest of the world. It would also set the standard for sustained development, accessibility and inclusivity in Africa.
“We have had just two African finalists in the history of the FIFA Club World Cup,” said the FIFA President referring to Tout Puissant Mazembe and Raja Casablanca, runners-up in 2010 and 2013 respectively. “This competition will help these teams develop the footballing and financial muscle to consistently match – and perhaps then defeat – the very best the rest of the world has to offer.”
The 2023 competition starts with quarter-final ties played on a home-and-away basis, and the semi-finals and final will also be contested over two legs. The opening ceremony and the first match will take place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on 20 October. The semi-finals will be played between 29 October and 1 November, with the final on 5 and 11 November.
All matches will be streamed live on the AFL website and televised by CAF’s broadcast partners with the 2023 edition serving as an appetiser for an expanded 24-team competition in the 2024/25 campaign.
“FIFA has been supporting CAF and the AFL by sharing its wealth of organisational and logistical expertise, and I am proud to say that CAF and the AFL have done a wonderful job in what they have put in place so far to bring this competition to life,” explained Mr. Infantino.
“While this first edition will certainly be fantastic, I’m already looking forward to the future, and the opportunities of the next edition, which will be expanded to feature 24 teams representing over 16 different countries.
“More clubs means more stadiums, more host cities, and more fans watching more exciting matches, fuelling the development of African football with their fantastic passion for the game. This competition is a world first and it is a great pleasure and privilege to see it come to life alongside all of you.”
Source : FIFA