Football in Africa is warming up to the many belated stimuli and from all indications entering a new phase of development. African Clubs Championship cup/ CAF Champions League is 41 this year, yet the continent is still waiting its first representation in the FIFA World Club Championship. Last year, Fifa announced that the winners of the African Champions League would compete in the FIFA World Club Championship from 2005.
No other game highlights disparity in wealth than football. With Africa football deeply in poverty, it should not be too difficult to understand why soccer on the continent still languishes behind the rest of the world. Last year, clubs from the Central African Republic withdrew from the competition due to lack of funds. Tempest Mocaf also withdrew citing similar reason. Their decision therefore allowed Ghana's Asante Kotoko a bye into the first round stage of the competition. In spite of this problem of lacking of financial support, no one can deny the abandance of talents on the continent. It is in recognition of this that efforts are being made to enhance soccer growth in Africa.
The maiden edition of the competition was held in January 1965 which Oryx Ballios beat Stade Malian 2-1 in the final played in Accra to become the first African Champions. Indeed, that was the only time the title was decided on neutral grounds. The more professional North African sides have been more successful in this competition, with over half of the last 40 titles going to clubs from Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Egypt has the most wins, nine, while Cameroon and Morocco have five each. In all, twelve countries have provided African champions, the latest being Nigeria with the success of Enyimba of Aba. The most successful club in the history of the championship has been Zamalek of Egypt, with a total number of five titles.
The first trophy for the competition bore the name of Dr Kwame Nkrumah which was eventually kept by Hafia club of Guinea in 1977. This was replaced by one donated by President Sekou Toure, which was claimed by Zamalek in 1993. Since 1994, a trophy donated by CAF which silver ball on a base of metal rings and wooden stand has been contested.
The competition has undergone series of transformation over the years. At first, re-plays and toss of the coin were used to decide tied matches. Penalty shoot-out was then introduced in 1971 before the away goal rule came in 1975. CAF introduced a limit of 30 players per club per year, with 25 registered at the start of the competition and five more allowed to be added from the last eight onwards. Champions League was introduced in 1997, bringing in a league format for the last eight. Winners from two group of four then met in the final. Semi-final round was also introduced five years later.
With this year's edition in progress, it is my hope that competing clubs showcase quality play to justify the significant progress in Africa football. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.