JOHANNESBURG - CAF president Ahmad Ahmad has left the door ajar for the possibility of all African leagues operating under a unified calendar after it was evident yet again following the weekend’s Champions League and Confederation Cup round of matches that some regions are disadvantaged by the current set-up.
During his tour of the SA Football Association premises on Monday, Ahmad, who succeeded Issa Hayatou as the CAF president in March, acknowledged that having the various countries schedule their leagues to run from January to November while others use the European format of August to May had increasingly become a contentious debate.
“It’s the right question to ask on whether we should harmonise the programme,” he told journalists. “We have a symposium next month and there we have not only invited the heads of the football associations, but also presidents of the different clubs. We have invited all the stakeholders because we really need to think about this and come up with a better solution.”
The contrasting calendar has not only been an issue with regards to club competitions, but when it comes to international tournaments such as the regional COSAFA Cup, which concluded in Rustenburg on Sunday with Zimbabwe being crowned winners following their 3-1 thrashing of Zambia, as well as the African Nations Championship, more commonly known as CHAN, which only allows national team coaches to select players from their respective domestic leagues.
Both competitions do not fall on Fifa dates, meaning clubs have the right to withhold players. The COSAFA Cup failed to attract decent crowds, even when home side Bafana Bafana - with a team made up of little known players from the Premier League and National First Division - played.
“But there is no scientific research telling us we should scrap these tournaments,” said Ahmad. “The CHAN is a legacy left behind by my predecessor and we should fight to preserve it. If anything, we need to work on improving them going forward. We need a study that will allow us to do that with these two competitions. Our idea really is to talk to Fifa and reinforce the competition in the zones because the continent is so vast that the only way to improve the competition is within its zone.”
The CHAN tournament is likely to be moved to another country with confirmation from Ahmad that 2018 hosts Kenya are far from ready and their ability to stage the event could be further derailed by the country’s general elections next month.
“At the moment the reality is that they are not ready. They have asked us to give them until the end of August. But we can still confirm that the tournament will take place at the scheduled date of January next year. Our delegation is talking to the (Kenya) government about an action plan and has identified areas that need improvement.”
Bafana play Botswana away on Saturday in the first leg of their second round qualifier for CHAN, with the return match set to take place at Moruleng Stadium a week later. Stuart Baxter, the national team coach, is expected to pretty much use the same team he picked during the COSAFA Cup. But there will be several changes as local teams return for pre-season ahead of the start of the 2017/18 campaign.