Tale of two Champions League finals shows why African clubs are stuck in a time warp

Author: Robert Madoi is a sports journalist and analyst. PHOTO/FILE/NMG.

What you need to know:

  • Uefa Champions League final venue is always known but Caf is always on TBC.

If you need hard information to prove that poor leadership has the most drastic consequences, a juxtaposition of showpiece club football tournaments in Africa and Europe would be instructive. There is no doubt that the Uefa Champions League (UCL) deserves canonisation for offering very strong performances season in, season out.

The current campaign has been a heady concoction, in love with its own unconventional thrills. No one expected Villarreal to be a fierce presence, and yet the Spanish outfit shocked itself – and indeed the world – by progressing to the last four. What makes Villarreal’s Cinderella run all the more remarkable was that it came at the expense of the broadly buzzed-about Bayern Munich juggernaut.

This season’s UCL final – set to take place in the French capital of Paris during the last Saturday of this month – has a distinguished pedigree. Real Madrid and Liverpool have between them 19 UCL titles and 25 previous final appearances. While Liverpool’s road to Stade de France in Saint-Denis has been made up to look authentic and unglamorous, Real Madrid – in line to win a record-extending 14th title – subjected its fans to a kaleidoscope of emotions with razor thin aggregate wins over PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City.

Whereas there is clarity and blanket certainty about where the 2022 UCL will take place, the same cannot be said of the Caf Champions League (CCL) final. The TBD acronym has given the impression that the whys and what-fors around this season’s CCL final were not immediately answered. With defending champions Al Ahly from Egypt and Morocco’s Wydad Athletic Club primed to book tickets to the CCL final, any selection of a single-venue final deemed not neutral would be much less welcome.

This, of course, begs the question why. But more on that pertinent question later. What is apparent now is that the quagmire offered concerned parties a choice: complicity or compliance?

So when Fouzi Lekjaa’s (the Morocco FA president) attempt to have his native Morocco (specifically Casablanca) stage the CCL final came very close to succeeding (or did it succeed?), a panic button was always going to be pressed. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Caf (Confederation of African Football) top honcho, Patrice Motsepe tried to effect a venue change. 

A tenuous attempt on May 4 to have the Senegalese capital of Dakar installed as the host city of the final turned out to be an oddly mediocre misfire.
The inevitable consequence of contestations over the venue for this year’s CCL final will be bad press. Instead of being immersed into storylines about, say, Pitso Mosimane’s tactical smarts or whether Tiago Azulão’s predatory skills can help Petro de Luanda mount a comeback against Wydad (the return leg was played last night), African club football has found itself lost in a morass of explanations. As it turns out, this is the ultimate disasterclass on how to drum up interest in and support for a Cup final.

Riven by doubt and division, the disasterclass should compel African football authorities to predispose themselves to best practices. No showpiece football tournament worth its salt can kick off uncertain as to where the grand finale will be staged. The risks of such a voyage into the unknown can be unacceptably high as Caf and those at its margins have come to learn.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @robertmadoi


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