Why Motsepe’s Sundowns may leave Africa Football League

Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango | Photo Credit: BackpagePix

FOOTBALL Why Motsepe’s Sundowns may leave Africa Football League

Shafic Kiyaga 20:12 - 30.09.2023

The uncertainity around the South African champions’ future in the competition has come to the fore just three weeks the AFL kicks off on October 20, 2023.

Denis Onyango’s Mamelodi Sundowns, owned by Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Mamelodi Sundowns might not participate in the inaugural season of African Football League (AFL).

The uncertainity around the South African champions’ future in the competition has come to the fore just three weeks the AFL kicks off on October 20, 2023.

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The newly formed AFL, officially announced by CAF a year ago, has garnered significant attention with its promise of showcasing top-tier African football talents, featuring eight teams drawn from the continent's high-ranking leagues.

The elite list includes the likes of reigning African champions Al Ahly, Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca, and Nigeria’s Enyimba, among others.

Onyango’s Mamelodi Sundowns are scheduled to face the test against Angola’s Petro de Luanda – who themselves are still not yet sure of their participation.

Luanda are still grappling with a two year suspension from football for match fixing from the Angolan Football Federation, with their appeal yet to be heard.

Why The Uncertainty?

The Premier Soccer League (PSL) Board of Governors met on September 28, 2023 to deliberate on this crucial matter, with a representative from Sundowns reportedly being excused from the meeting.

The Board is objecting to the Brazilians' participation due to critical concerns regarding scheduling and communication.

Aubrey Modiba (17) celebrates his goal with his teammates | Photo Credit: Sundowns Media

Firstly, the PSL reportedly did not receive communication regarding the AFL until September 16, 2023, well after the commencement of the DStv Premiership season on August 4, 2023.

Endorsing Sundowns’ participation would necessitate altering the fixtures and extending the league programme by over three weeks.

Thus disrupting the traditionally concluded league and promotional/relegation playoffs by the end of June.

This calendar is essential for aligning with player contracts, and any deviation poses complications for the clubs.

Moreover, the AFL’s communications, originating from its headquarters in Rwanda, have reportedly provided sparse details about the organizers.

This limited interaction has left many uncertainties, with indications of minimal communication between the continent’s football governing body and the PSL regarding the tournament.

Potential Ramifications:

The schedule conflict also means that Sundowns would miss three weeks of action on the domestic scene amidst their CAF Champions League campaign.

Furthermore, the introduction of South Africa’s new cup competition, the Carling Knockout Cup, slightly extends the season, adding to the congested fixture list.

Sundowns head coach Rhulani Mokwena | Photo Credit: Sundowns Media

With the AFL quarterfinals looming and the second leg of the final marked for November 12, 2023, the tensions are high.

Sundowns are aware of the developments, yet their subsequent steps remain a contemplative enigma.

Looking Forward:

The possible exit of Mamelodi Sundowns from the AFL would indeed be a monumental blow to the competition.

Meanwhile, On Saturday, CAF unveiled the enticing prize money for the inaugural African Football League (AFL).

the winner bagging a substantial USD 4,000,000, the runner-up procuring USD 3,000,000, while the semi-finalists are to receive USD 1,700,000 each.

All the eight teams in the competition will earn USD 1,000,000 at least, with competition starting at the quarter finals.