Sports Features Sat, 4 Mar 2006

Africa Clubs Championship Cup/Champions League In Focus

Football in Africa is warming up to the many belated stimuli and from all indications entering a new phase of development. African Clubs Championship cup/ CAF Champions League is 42 this year, yet little can be said about the continent in the history of the FIFA World Club Championship.

No other game highlights disparity in wealth than football. With Africa football deeply in poverty, one would not find it too difficult to understand why soccer on the continent still languishes behind the rest of the world. Last year, clubs from the Central African Republic withdrew from the competition due to lack of funds. Tempest Mocaf also withdrew citing a similar reason. Their decision therefore allowed Ghana?s Asante Kotoko a bye into the first round stage of the competition. In spite of this problem of lack of financial support, no one can deny the abundance of talents on the continent. It is in recognition of this that efforts are being made by CAF to enhance soccer growth in Africa.

The maiden edition of the competition was held in January 1965 which Oryx Ballios beat Stade Malian 2-1 in the final played in Accra (neutral grounds) to become the first African Champions. The more professional north African sides have been more successful in this competition, with over half of the last 41 titles going to clubs from Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Egypt has ten wins while Cameroon and Morocco have five each. In all, twelve countries have provided Africa champions, the latest being Nigeria with the recent successes of Enyimba of Aba. The most successful club in the history of the championship has been Zamalek of Egypt, with a total of five titles, slightly ahead of holders, Ahly.

The first trophy for the competition bore the name of Dr Kwame Nkrumah which was eventually kept by Hafia club of Guinea in 1977. This was replaced by one donated by President Sekou Toure of Guinea, which was claimed by Zamalek in 1993. Since 1994, a trophy donated by CAF which is a silver ball on a base of metal rings and wooden stand has been contested.

The competition has undergone series of transformation over the years. At first, re-plays and toss of the coin were used to decide tied matches. Penalty shoot-out was then introduced in 1971 before the away goal r! ule came in 1975. CAF introduced a limit of 30 players per club per year, with 25 registered at the start of the competition and five more allowed to be added from the last eight onwards. Champions League was introduced in 1997, bringing in a league format for the last eight. Winners from two group of four then met in the final. Semi-final round was also introduced five years later. CAF fixed last year`s final for November instead of the regular December schedule. Champions league has really given another dimension to Africa soccer. Who wins the trophy this year? I trust Asante Kotoko/Hearts of Oak to win.

Long Live Africa soccer!

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.
Source: Amo-Mensah, Kwasi