As Patrice Motsepe ramps up plans for an African Super League, which of the continent’s giants will be hopeful about participating?
Al-Ahly: Ahly are Africa’s biggest and most successful club, while they were named Africa’s Club of the Century for the 1900s. They remain on course for another CAF Champions League triumph this season, and would be the franchise players — and immediate favourites — for the maiden African Super League.
SC Zamalek: Five-time African champions Zamalek will definitely also be included. They boast a significant fan-base, are a wealthy club, and their Clasico against Ahly would be one of the standout fixtures of the Super League calendar.
Wydad Casablanca: Wydad are Morocco’s most successful club, second only to Ahly in the CAF rankings and boast 20 domestic titles. They’ve recently enjoyed continental success as well — winning the Champions League in 2017 — and were defeated finalists in 2011 and 2019. They are still in the running for the CAF Champions League this time around.
Raja Casablanca: You can’t really include Wydad without including Raja, who were CAF Champions League semi-finalists last time around. They’re one of Africa’s most compelling clubs, enjoy massive support, and provided one of Africa’s greatest teams with the two-time Champions League winners of 1997 and 1999. Raja are also CAF Confederation Cup semi-finalists this time around.
Esperance: Back-to-back Champions League winners in 2018 and 2019, Esperance are Tunisia’s biggest club. There’s absolutely no way they could be overlooked, and they remain in the hunt for African gold again this season.
Etoile du Sahel: ESS are also guaranteed entrants from Tunisia. They enjoyed their finest hours at the start of the century — winning one Champions League, two Confederation Cups, and were defeated finalists in two other CAF CL finals in the space of five years. They’ve not been as successful since then — apart from winning the Confed Cup in 2015 — but couldn’t be overlooked for the Super League.
Mamelodi Sundowns: Are Sundowns the best placed South African side to qualify for the maiden edition of the African Super League? They have established themselves as the nation’s most successful side during Motsepe’s ownership, thoroughly eclipsing Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates over the last 15 years. They are also former African champions — winning the crown in 2016 — and there’s surely no way that the new CAF president’s own team would be excluded from the Super League!
Simba SC: Looking far better placed than fellow East Africans Gor Mahia, Young Africans and KCCA FC, Simba appear locks for the first Super League. They do have some continental pedigree — they were Champions League runners-up back in 1972 — and their statement victory over Al-Ahly earlier this year has drawn many eyes to their strong current standing. CEO Barbara Gonzalez has been cosying up to Gianni Infantino, and her recent confidence in the Super League project also suggests Simba won’t be left out. Certainly, it would be a massive shock if they didn’t make the Super League.
TP Mazembe: Sub-Saharan Africa’s powerhouse, TP Mazembe are one of Africa’s top ten richest clubs, and would also be the key representatives of the Central African region. Games at their Lubumbashi home would be a commercial spectacle, and their trio of Caf Champions League successes over the last 12 years ensure they’ll be included.
AS Vita Club: Rivalries and derbies would fuel interest in an African Super League, and so Vita Club — themselves a major club — should fancy their chances of being included as Central Africa’s second representatives alongside their bitter rivals Mazembe. They have reached two major African finals since 2014, and were African champions back in 1973.
Kaizer Chiefs: One of Africa’s biggest football brands, Chiefs are finally realising their continental potential in the CAF Champions League this season – and find themselves in the final four for the first time ever. Unless CAF coefficients come into play, they surely wouldn’t be overlooked, while their 16-million strong fan-base would be a committed and valuable audience for broadcasters.
Orlando Pirates: Not the force they once were, perhaps, but Pirates are nonetheless a massive club, among Africa’s richest, and would be a valuable addition to the African Super League. Struggling at the moment, they were nonetheless African champions in 1995 – the first South African side to win the competition.
Al-Hilal: The most successful team in the Sudanese top flight with 27 titles, Hilal are domestic royalty and consistent competitors in CAF competitions. They were Champions League runners-up in ’87 and ’92 — the pinnacle of their African success — but reached the semis as recently as 2015. Counting against them, however, is that they haven’t advanced past the First Round since.
Al-Merreikh: If Hilal make the cut, then Merreikh surely need to as well! The Omdurman derby would be one of the standout attractions of the African Super League, and Hilal’s inclusion would be enhanced by Merreikh also participating. They’re domestic giants, reigning Sudanese champions, and also won continental gold — albeit in CAF’s secondary club competition — in 1989.
Enyimba: Nigeria’s NPFL surely needs a representative in the Super League, even if the nation has been short on continental success in recent years. If only one team from the Nigerian top flight can make the cut, it surely has to be Enyimba. The People’s Elephant won the title in 2019, have won eight titles (more than any other side), and were two-time African champions. The Enyimba side of 2003-2005 is one of the continent’s finest sides of this century, although they’ve fallen far from those levels in the intervening years.
Pyramids: The only things counting against Pyramids are their lack of pedigree – they were only formed in 2008 – and the fact they’ve never participated in the CAF Champions League. They were defeated CAF Confederation Cup finalists last year, are still in the running this time around, and would be lucrative additions to the Super League.
Club Africain: Could Tunisia merit a third team to feature in the Super League? If they do, then Club Africain, African champions in 1991, will be the main contenders. They’ve won over 10 league titles, boast a considerable fan-base, and are one of Africa’s top five richest clubs.
USM Alger: Which Algerian side ought to be included in the African Super League? JS Kabylie are the nation’s most successful side domestically, CR Belouizdad are the reigning champions, while MC Alger were African champions in 1976 and ES Setif in 1988. They each have a strong case, while USM Alger — currently the highest ranked in the CAF club rankings — might prove to be the most competitive inclusion.
RS Berkane: An African club on the rise, Berkane were Confederation Cup winners in 2020, having been runners-up to SC Zamalek in the final showpiece the season before. They would be worthy inclusions in the Super League, but could Morocco really have three inclusions? If not, surely Raja and Wydad will get the nod.
Gor Mahia: Kenyan giants, but Gor have relatively little African pedigree and have struggled in continental competition recently. Their financial limitations have affected their performance in Caf tournaments, and they would struggle to afford any potential buy-in for the Super League.
Asante Kotoko: One of the grand old names of African football, Kotoko were genuine giants in the late 60s and early 70s, reaching four Champions League finals and winning one. Their stock has fallen dramatically since – although they were twice defeated CAF Confed Cup finalists in the early 2000s. They’d be a great ‘heritage’ inclusion, but surely there are worthier contenders.
Horoya: Francophone West Africa — such an influential region for the continent — surely needs representation, and as the only club currently prominent in CAF’s top 20 ranking of African teams, Horoya would be the standout option. Confederation Cup winners in 1978, they impressed in the Champions League this season, only missing out on the knockout stages due to an inferior head-to-head record against Kaizer Chiefs. Stade Malien and
Primeiro de Agosto: Infantino and Motsepe would need to find some representation for the considerable Lusophone market across Africa. The likes of Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Sao Tome e Principe have had little success in Africa, so oil-rich Angola would surely need to provide the representatives for the Super League. A case could be made for two Girabola teams to be included, but will Infantino go for Petro Atletico — the league’s most successful side — or Primeiro, who have won the last four championships? The latter were also Champions League semi-finalists as recently as 2018, so they probably just edge this one.
Hearts of Oak: Another fallen giant of the African game, Hearts were Confederation Cup winners as recently as 2004. Domestically, however, they’re without a title since 2009, and are labouring amidst Ghanaian football’s malaise.
ASEC Abidjan: One of Africa’s legendary teams, but ASEC have struggled for success in recent years and haven’t won the Ivorian title since 2018. They have been responsible for producing some of Africa – and Cote d’Ivoire’s – best-ever players, but would be a surprise inclusion in the Super League. SuperSport United: They were CAF Confederation Cup finalists as recently as 2017, but it would be a major shock if SuperSport United were considered in any Super League. The main thing counting against them is the presence of three other South African giants, surely the PSL couldn’t contribute four teams to Motsepe’s vision…could they? – Goal.com