Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
DYNAMOS chairman Isaiah Mupfurutsa has hailed the opportunities for growth that come with the proposed African Super League which Zimbabwe is expected to be part of.
Mupfurutsa, who along with CAPS United president Farai Jere, took part in the consultative meetings called in Douala, Cameroon, by CAF president Patrice Motsepe, on the sidelines of the 2021 AFCON tournament. They shared the round table with the aristocrats of African club football at the weekend as the plans for the elite competition gather momentum.
The duo received direct invitations from Motsepe to represent Zimbabwe at the indaba that has drawn together presidents from Africa’s top clubs such as Egyptian giants Al Ahly, Mamelodi Sundowns, Enyimba of Nigeria, Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, Ghana’s Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko.
FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, was also part of the gathering, which was also attended by continental football association presidents.
The beleaguered suspended ZIFA president, Felton Kamambo, was conspicuous by his absence after he was barred from travelling to Cameroon at the weekend.
“We are happy, we are excited with the invitations from CAF, with the support from FIFA. I would like to salute the presidents of the two organisations for the clear vision that they have demonstrated towards development of football in Africa.
“They were involved in the meetings that we have had here and they showed the delegates exactly what we want to achieve with African football via this African Super League concept,” said Mupfurutsa, while speaking from Cameroon yesterday.
“Basically, the idea is to raise the level of football competition (in Africa) and to take football a serious business. They are saying football is big business globally so the players and clubs should be able to get good returns from it.
“It’s also been said that the same concepts that are used to run businesses should be used in football management from the bottom to the top.
“So it is envisaged that this African Super League will bring more players aboard in terms of sponsorship and resource mobilisation.”
Mupfurutsa arrived in Douala on Thursday.
The delegates have been given five-star treatment, which included daily shuttles to Yaounde where they had dinner with the two presidents (Motsepe and Infantino) on Friday before returning the following day to watch the 2021 AFCON third place play-off featuring hosts Cameroon and Burkina Faso.
They were also part of the VIP spectators during the AFCON final between Egypt and Senegal last night.
Although the plans for the African Super League are still at the formative stages, the tournament is expected to kick-start in September 2023.
Initial proposals presented by CAF suggest that 24 teams will contest three groups of eight teams ahead of a knockout stage starting with the Round of 16.
These teams will be taken from the best-ranked African clubs over the past few years, with groups to be played on a regional basis.
“From the meetings that we have had, there is general recognition that Africa has talent but the remuneration is not good enough and that is why players are leaving in hordes to play football outside the continent, and our competitions are left poorer.
“This is one of the things that this competition would want to address. We have to try and retain African talent in Africa so that our competitions are attractive even to the corporate world. “As Dynamos, we are upbeat about this and we are excited to see that the leadership at CAF and FIFA have raised these issues about more opportunities and resources being availed to club football.
“The general consensus is that this thing was long overdue. But before its implementation, we have to look at the business side of things, how we have done with some of the competitions already in place and what would probably need to be done to improve and ensure that this Super League is more successful.
“So they have suggested two more meetings. This is a consultative process and there is need to be thorough and take into account all the concerns from the stakeholders.
“Clubs have faced challenges in other competitions already in existence because, for example, if you look at the Champions League, what you invest to participate in the competition and the returns are usually not commensurate,” said Mupfurutsa.
CAF ensured they will include meritocratic principles such as promotion and relegation and will be inclusive, giving everyone the opportunity to participate.
Mupfurutsa said local football authorities have huge obligations if they hope to put the country back on the map in the proposed African Super League. Zimbabwe have of late been in decline in the continental competitions.
In a bid to develop African football, CAF have also proposed that clubs wishing to compete will need to have both a youth academy as well as a woman’s side.
Mupfurutsa believes with better resources and improved management, Zimbabwe has what it takes to be a force on the continent.
“I have been here since last Thursday and I can tell you there is high level of organisation which we have to learn as clubs and football leadership.
“There is need to be up to speed with the developments taking place globally and on the continent so that we are not left behind.
“The issue of Club Licensing is serious. There will be certain requirements for teams to qualify for the Super League and we have to work towards that. This then ceases to be about Dynamos or CAPS United, who were also invited here, but about Zimbabwean football. “We have a duty to put our country back on the map in terms of football success. I am happy that the Government of Zimbabwe have seen the challenges that our game has been facing and have taken a proactive route through the Sports Commission by supporting the Warriors financially at AFCON and also the Mighty Warriors who are preparing for their own AWCON competition. Zimbabwean football can be great again, I believe it is possible,” said Mupfurutsa.
African club presidents are set to meet twice more in the next four months as discussions about the launch of a Super League on the continent intensify.
Two years ago FIFA president, Infantino, claimed the creation of an African Super League could generate an estimated US$200m in revenue.
Both club and FA presidents – in separate meetings – were presented with plans that had been revised after feedback from previous talks regarding the idea, which is being constantly refined.
CAF president, Motsepe, indicated he will engage his business contacts to draw in some major sponsors – with one idea being to seek the sponsorship of airlines in a bid to cut costs of travelling across the continent.
“You need the private sector, the sponsors, and they have to make commercial decisions,” Motsepe told reporters in Cameroon.
“Gianni and I have had really exciting discussions with some of the biggest TV companies in the world. We want the chairmen of clubs in Africa to be part of this consultation process, to give us input and advice because it’s going to require a restructuring of fixtures and leagues.
“You can’t, in Africa, have initiatives of this magnitude that do not involve everybody, so every nation in Africa is part of this process.
“What I like is that it will allow CAF to get some money to develop African football and make it world-class, but also to use some of the money to share amongst all of the 54 nations in Africa – from the smallest one to the largest one.”
FIFA president, Infantino, explained that the African Super League was not a breakaway competition. Clubs will not have to leave their own domestic leagues to participate, while the possibility remains that the African Champions League will continue, as will the CAF Confederation Cup.
“It’s a completely different proposition – it is not at all a breakaway league,” said Infantino.
“It is an African Super League integrated in the institutional structures of African and global football. The second big difference is that this is an open competition, allowing for teams to be promoted and also to be relegated if they don’t perform.
“The African Super League is definitely an exciting project as far as FIFA is concerned. It’s a unique project for global and African football and for this reason, I’m very happy to be here to assist and share a little bit of the experience we’ve accumulated.”