• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

CAF Champions League: Will North Africa dominance continue?

CAF Champions League cup

This weekend marks a pivotal moment in the 2023/24 CAF Champions League season as four African football powerhouses collide in the highly anticipated first leg of the semi-finals on Saturday, April 20th.

Al Ahly representing Egypt from North Africa, TP Mazembe from DR Congo in Central Africa, Espérance Sportive Tunis representing Tunisia also from North Africa, and Mamelodi Sundowns flying the flag for South Africa in Southern Africa, are the four teams vying for this season’s CAF Champions League title, the most coveted title of Africa’s premier club football champions.

The first leg of the semi-finals kicks off this weekend on April 20th, with the return legs set for April 25th and 26th, 2024.

TP Mazembe, a former FIFA Club World Cup finalist from the Democratic Republic of Congo, last appeared in the TotalEnergies CAF Champions League finals a decade ago. Their path to glory faces a significant challenge this weekend as they clash with reigning champions, Al Ahly, in Lubumbashi.

Among these elite clubs, a total of 21 CAF Champions League titles have been secured, with Al Ahly leading the pack with eleven titles, followed by Mazembe with five, ES Tunis with four, and Mamelodi Sundowns clinching one title.

In Tunis, ES Tunis aims to clinch their fifth title, their last triumph dating back to 2019. They host Mamelodi Sundowns, whose 2016 victory is bolstered by a recent triumph in the African Football League (AFL), enhancing their stature on the continent.

With razor-thin differentials between the four contenders, each possessing championship calibre, the competition promises thrilling encounters and any of them stands a chance of clinching the title this season.

The CAF Champions League stands as the pinnacle of club football in Africa, boasting winners from various regions of the continent. Notably, since November 7, 2009, North African teams have dominated the finals, with teams from other regions struggling to break their stronghold.

However, this year’s semifinals present an opportunity for a historic shift in this trend.

As the tournament progresses to the semi-final stage, two non-North African teams, Mamelodi Sundowns and TP Mazembe, are still in contention. Their potential qualification for the final could mark the first time in 15 years that a final would be devoid of a North African team.

The possibility of both Esperance and Al Ahly advancing to the final would continue the trend of North African dominance, with eight out of the last fourteen finals featuring exclusively North African teams.

Should Mamelodi Sundowns and TP Mazembe qualify for the finals, it will be the first time in 15 years that no team from North Africa will play in the CAF Champions League final

This pivotal moment in the CAF Champions League not only highlights the intensity of the competition but also the potential for a significant shift in its historical narrative.