Caf co­nun­drum: How to get four sides into two African slots

African Independent - - SPORT - MONTHATI MOTAUNG

Switch­ing the Caf Cham­pi­ons League and Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup club com­pe­ti­tions from a Fe­bru­ary-Novem­ber to August-May sea­son will bring changeover chal­lenges.

Were the “new look” to come into ef­fect next year, coun­tries could have two sets of qual­i­fiers vy­ing for one lot of places.

Take South Africa as an ex­am­ple.

Bid­vest Wits and Mamelodi Sun­downs have qual­i­fied to rep­re­sent the coun­try in the 2018 Cham­pi­ons League. But if the Caf com­pe­ti­tions start only next August, the 2017/18 sea­son will have fin­ished with the pos­si­bil­ity of new league win­ners and run­ners-up.

Po­ten­tially, you have four clubs en­ti­tled to the two places re­served for South Africa in the 2018/19 Cham­pi­ons League.

With a dra­matic im­prove­ment in prize money, in­clud­ing a $2.5 mil­lion first prize, no team is likely to vol­un­tar­ily with­draw.

That sit­u­a­tion would also ap­ply to other coun­tries where a va­ri­ety of clubs fill the top po­si­tions in the cham­pi­onship over two sea­sons.

Only in a coun­try like Su­dan, where Al Hi­lal and Al Mer­rikh fill the top two po­si­tions with mo­not­o­nous reg­u­lar­ity, would such a prob­lem not arise.

Coun­tries with a Fe­bru­aryNovem­ber do­mes­tic sea­son, like Zim­babwe and Zam­bia, would have only one set of qual­i­fiers and there­fore, no prob­lem.

Nor would Ghana and Nige­ria be af­fected as they have a cal­en­dar-year sea­son.

But apart from South Africa, north African na­tions Al­ge­ria, Egypt, Morocco and Tu­nisia would be hit as they play from August to May.

A cou­ple of so­lu­tions spring to mind with one be­ing Caf pass­ing the ba­ton to na­tional as­so­ci­a­tions and let­ting them de­cide which clubs go into Africa.

An­other is to hold “fast” Caf Cup com­pe­ti­tions in the first half of the year when change is in­tro­duced. Groups could be scrapped in favour of a quick, knock­out-only for­mat, en­sur­ing the com­pe­ti­tions are com­pleted by June.

That would en­sure clubs do not miss out on one sea­son of prize money, and pro­vide an African rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the lu­cra­tive end-of-year Fifa Club World Cup.

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