The Confederation of African Football (or Confédération Africaine de Football as it’s known to it’s mom) covers the giant continent of Africa and is the federation that follows it’s geographical continent the closest. It has the most member nations (55), even more so than UEFA (53), and the only place in Africa omitted is the territory of Western Sahara, on the northern section of the West Coast.
Over history, African nations have struggled to compete in world football, due to economic difficulties in large parts of the continent, but recent success stories such as Adebayor, Eto’o, Drogba, Essien and (who can forget) Roger Milla, prove that the talent is not lacking there.
For a long time Africa struggled for recognition on FIFA’s board, with many countries lobbying against allowing them to have a confederation that was part of FIFA. Luckily for Africa, it had more friends than doubters and eventually got voted in to be represented at FIFA’s congresses. Doubts had been raised about the quality of football in the continent, but eventually sense was seen, allowing the CAF to form and for African football to be given the opportunity to try and catch up with some of the leading nations of the time.
The confederation was formed on 8th Feb 1957, around the same time as UEFA, Europe’s counterpart, but the economic advantages that UEFA benifitted from have seen it grow exponentially larger. The CAF has also seen a lot of infighting within it’s ranks and structure, which have also hindered growth and plans to encourage that growth.
The Avenida Hotel in Lisbon, Portugal on 7 Jun 1956 was the place and time of the first talks that led to the formation of the CAF, held between the FAs of Sudan, Egypt and South Africa. The following February they were joined by the Ethiopan FA in north East Africa in Khartoum, Sudan in talks that saw the official formation of the African confederation; the CAF.
Things haven’t always ran smoothly for the CAF though, it’s first difficulties arising from the Apartheid issues in South Africa. FIFA had accepted the white-only South African team but not everyone in the CAF was agreement with this. The racism problems dragged on for a long time before finally being resolved with a solution where everyone involved was happy. During this time the African Cup of Nations began, but due to not being willing to enter a multi-racial team, South Africa were not allowed to enter.
The CAF began life based in Khartoum, Sudan but now sweats it’s tits off in the scorching heat of Cairo, after a fire caused issues including the loss of records (as in documents, not their Frank Sinatra collection!). The president is a fella called Issa Hayatou, who actually plied his sporting trade as a runner and basketballer. Seven years ago he competed against Sepp Blatter in the election for president of FIFA and Blatter’s win attracted a lot of scepticism, from Hayatou fans and others wary of Blatter and his ways.
Club-wise, the CAF run a competition very similar to the UEFA Champions League, called the CAF Champions League, which operates as a knockout cup, then a group stage, then back to knockout for the final stages. It is officially named the MTN CAF Champions League, named so because of the mobile phone company that sponsors the competition.
The clubs aim to win the main prize pot of $1m, with the FA they belong to also being awarded $50,000. Since the early 80s, Egypt have dominated the competition with 11 wins, split between Al-Ahly and El Zamalek. Back in 1969, Egypt also had a winning nation with Ismaily SC, when Egpyt was known as the United Arab Republic.
The competition is a massive target for many African clubs, with nearly a quarter of a million dollars being paid for reaching the group stages, money that is a big help to aid them to raise the standard of African football with a view to eventually being able to keep many of their best players playing in their home continent, instead of being lured to Europe.
Prior to 1997, the competition was called the African Cup of Champions Clubs and was historically competed between the winners of each nation’s domestic league and the holder. In recent years it has increased to a 64 team tournament, now including 12 2nd placed teams from the countries highest ranked by the CAFs 5-Year Ranking system.
The secondary club competition is the CAF Confederation Cup, which began in 1975 as the African Cup Winners’ Cup and now also incorporates the CAF Cup, which ran from 1992 to 2004. The tournament is competed between the best of the African teams that didn’t qualify for the Champions League. The competition includes knockout rounds and group stages, as well as teams eliminated from the Champions League joining along the way. The winner is awarded $660k from which $625 goes to the club and $35k to the FA the club belongs to. Since becoming the Confederations Cup in 2004, it has always been won by north-west African clubs.
Nation-wise, the CAF organises the African Cup of Nations, which takes place every 2 years in January and February. Due to pressure from European clubs, the competition is being forced to change to the summer and will also have to switch the year it runs in order to not clash with the FIFA World Cup. The CAF are not happy with these enforced changes, mainly because the majority of Africa does not have suitable weather conditions in June and July for playing football, so it will seriously reduce the amount of possible host locations.
The cup began in 1957 with just 3 nations competing but has now grown large enough to make a qualification process necessary. The finals are now competed between 16 nations that have made their way through the qualification stages by either winning their group or being one of the best runners up. Much like the Champions League, Egypt are the most successful nation in the competition with 6 titles and Ghana and Cameroon are on their tail with 4 wins each. In all, 13 nations have won the competition through it’s history of different incarnations and formats.
The CAF Women’s Championship takes place usually every 2 years, beginning in 1991 and was amazingly won by Nigeria for the first 7 instances. The Nigerian ladies beat Ghana 3 times in the final and both Cameroon and South Africa twice each, including an 11-2 aggregate thrashing of South Africa in 1995. 2008’s competition saw the first new winner, when Nigeria were knocked out in the semi-final by Equitorial Guinea who went on to win the tournament, beating South Africa in the final.
CAF Member Nations
Central African Republic
São Tomé and PrÃncipe
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