We all do silly things. That is why I consider brandishing “I told you” on the other party that is being forced to eat its words or is suffering the consequences of not taking heed to your earlier warning childish. However, one may be unable to avoid those I-told-you moments when that party is always before you like a close relative or an establishment with an emotional attachment.
“AFCON 2019: Another Own Goal By CAF” is an article I wrote and was published in some dailies 12 months ago. It is still available on line and I would employ you to refer to it. In that piece, I claimed that it was unwise for the Confederation of African Football to move the African Cup of Nations to the European Summer months of June-July. The leadership of CAF argued that it was high time Africa aligned itself with the global football calendar. But I disagreed with them. I maintain that what we call football calendar today is just a subliminal cultural imposition by the European football oligarchs on the rest of the world.
I emphasized that a mid-year AFCON would have to muscle TV time with more established or demonstrably stronger international competitions. Furthermore, I mentioned that the rains, which are at their peak in sub-Saharan Africa at this time, would be a major disadvantage staging AFCON during the European Summer.
So, I couldn’t help but wave my I-told-you flag when CAF announced to the last nerve of Jurgen Klopp that AFCON 2021 would return to the traditional months of January-February. The introduction of an expanded FIFA World Club Cup and the torrential rains in the host country Cameroun at that time led to the reversal.
So, while CAF begins to think the timing of AFCON 2023 having in mind that the Qatar World Cup would be held in November-December 2022, this was how I put a bow on that article then: “Aligning with European football calendar is not what Africa needs; it is aligning with European football character. Africa can’t continue to run football with a national team bias; it is club football that is the soul of the game.
Creating parallel AFCON for home-based players or the obsolete staging of the event every other year has only left African football behind. A quadrennial AFCON like other continents in my opinion will be a better deal. This will not only give prospective hosts more time to prepare but also reduce the number of low ranked teams that drop out in the middle of the qualifiers.
Also the duplicated African Nations Championship (biennial nations’ cup for home-based players) should be dropped so that CAF and its affiliates can invest in local leagues which are the tributaries that supply national teams. This way the best of Africa will be in the continent and would not continue to be tossed to and fro by Europe.” Enough of the AFCON back and forth. Let me now highlight another own goal they have scored. This time it is the with club football.
Like the calendar, I am also uncomfortable with CAF moving the club football season to the European August to May from the original February to November. With this shift, the business end of the competition is made to again coincide with the rainy season which may lead to match postponements or matches being played on soggy pitches.
I am not a weatherman; I just want to enjoy good football. However, the other nagging issue is making the CAF Champions League a one-legged final.Actually, a section of fans and pundits had been canvassing for a European-styled one-legged final on a neutral ground for a while now because they felt the home-and-away two-legged final often favoured the second leg hosts.
Well there is no empirical or historical proof that the second legged team has an advantage over the team that hosted the first. Good teams win whether they are at home or not and more importantly take advantage of the first leg making the away second leg a victory lap. After all, both finalists played two-legged matches on their way to the finals.
The controversial CAF Champions League finals between Esperance of Tunis and Wayad Casablanca last year must have prompted CAF to go for a one-legged final. I think this is a hasty and emotive decision.
First, the European one-legged final is a marketing decision not because of fairness as advocates and CAF are presenting it. Cities (stadiums) willing to host UCL finals, bid for it and are awarded the rights about three years ahead. Thus, it is very possible that the hosting ground may have its home team in final as we had when Chelsea beat Bayern in Allianz Arena in 2012. What CAF has in mind is that after the finalists have emerged, a neutral venue will now be decided upon.
Subsequently, where the UCL final host city has over three years to prepare, CCL final host city has less than three weeks to prepare. Is CAF thinking of sales of tickets and travel plans? Worse still is taking Africa’s blue-ribbon game to a nonaligned ground outside Africa as this CAF leadership is prone to do.
Another thing we seem to be overlooking is that the overall infrastructural underdevelopment seen in poor airport connectivity, inflexible road network and high poverty index has made Africans bad tourists. If one takes away the AFCON semis and finals, most African stands are only dominated by the home fans and scanty when it is not the hosts playing. We may excuse an all north-African CCL final, but let’s assume the unlikely happens that Al Hilal Omduram of Sudan and ZESCO United of Zambia are to play the final match in Accra, how many fans or neutrals can afford such tedious and expensive one-match trip?!
Unfortunately, African football is drab for the unbiased and CAF has not packaged it to be easily accessible on TV and methinks this where CAF should begin from. Because at the end of the day, only the fans of teams involved will find a way of watching the finals on TV in a half-empty stadium far away from home.
While the summations of my earlier piece still stand, instead of all these waking-up-from-the-wrong-side-of-whoever’s-bed changes, what should bug CAF now is repackaging its club competitions for better viewership, followership and sponsorship. It should put its house in order and be more transparent in its finances. It should also make these competitions more monetarily rewarding to the clubs involved.
Okunfolami wites from Lagos