In late April, the Confederation of African Football set May 5 as the date by which they wanted clarification from each member federation on their intended plans for local competitions.
Africa’s domestic sporting competitions were halted in March and April, as the coronavirus pandemic first began to establish itself on the continent.
However, this week the respective national federations and league management committees have needed to outline their plans for the future, and it’s proven easier said than done.
CAF’s communiqué – as seen by ESPN – also outlined the governing body’s request to know the identities of the teams being put forward for next season’s continental club tournaments, “in order to help [CAF] design a plan for the organization of [African] interclub competitions during next season.”
Nigeria are also yet to make a proclamation on the future of the NPFL, although League Management Committee chairman Shehu Dikko has vehemently dismissed the recent rumours that he’s called for the league to be concluded in China.
Earlier, an NFF statement issued on April 24, in light of a meeting of the NFF Executive Committee, outlined the league’s intention to “conclude the league season after COVID-19 and resumption of football activities; [and to] consider the most plausible format for conclusion of the remaining games.”
South Africa’s PSL Executive are still intending to finalise a matchday strategy to safeguard players and officials, which they hope will persuade the government to allow the resumption of play.
The league has been suspended since March 16, although chairman Irvin Khoza has previously outlined his desire to conclude the campaign.
“As the PSL we’re confining ourselves within the directives of FIFA, that the leagues can only resume if given the green light by their governments,” Khoza told City Press.
“I must say [Arts and Culture minister Nathi Mthethwa] has been of great assistance on how to get to a comfort level if the government were to say when it will be safe to resume.
“He was happy with us as not just a sport but as a business.”
Lesotho also remain committed to completing the 2019-20 season. The federation informed CAF on Tuesday that they were unwilling to cancel the league, but that they are open to extending the planned conclusion date of the campaign in order to honour all fixtures.
Mali also announced — on May 4 — their intention to push on with the current campaign, “as soon as the health situation allows,” with Djoliba currently atop the standings, while Tanzania are also exploring options to resume domestic action behind closed doors.
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With sports in Uganda still banned for another fortnight at least, the federation are yet to make a decision on the future of their league, although FA President Moses Magogo is confident that – with only five rounds of fixtures to play – the league can be concluded before August.
“Not until we see that we can’t have the one month by August shall we entertain the discussion of which buttons to press,” he told the Daily Monitor.
Zambia, too, appear committed to concluding the current campaign; they’ve pushed the start date for next season back to March 2021 (from August/September 2020) in order to allow time to play the outstanding 10 fixtures.
Similarly, Algeria are determined to conclude the current Ligue 1 Professionnelle season, and published a detailed document outlining their intention for the league to resume five-to-six weeks after the nation’s lockdown ends – regardless of when that may be.
They have then allocated an eight-week period in which the 2019-20 season will be concluded, and then a four-to-five week window before the 2020-21 season begins.
Yet to make a decision
Some of Africa’s biggest nations have opted to defer their decision, with some pointing to ongoing domestic restrictions which prevent them from planning for the future and reaching clear conclusions.
The Royal Moroccan Football Federation will meet on Thursday in a video conference to examine the options open for Morocco’s domestic football in light of the ongoing lockdown.
Tunisia are more optimistic about a return next month. Youth and Sports minister Ahmed Gaaloul said on Thursday that sports teams will be able to resume training later this month, with a June or July return date envisaged, while the federation — in a document seen by ESPN — have proposed an extensive testing and confinement plan to ensure a safe return of competition behind closed doors.
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Cameroon have also refused to show their hand, with FA President Seidou Mbombo Njoya insisting that a decision on the Elite One’s future will only be taken when it is imperative.
“Football is not the priority in the current situation,” he said in a statement published on the federation website. “Football is secondary.
“We will make the decisions when it is necessary to make them, but we have all the scenarios and all the options ready and have informed CAF and FIFA. Let’s not get carried away.”
Guinea-Bissau are waiting for guidance from the continent’s governing body.
“Due to the problem of this pandemic, we’ve stopped our competitions, like all of the other countries in Africa,” Guinea-Bissau FA President Manuel Nascimento told ESPN, “but we’re waiting for the orientation of CAF and FIFA in order for us to decide if we resume or not.”
Ghana are also stalling, and are pointing to the ongoing government restrictions in the country which prevent them from resuming competition, with the GFA sticking by their decision not to consider a return to action before late June.
“The Executive Council, at its meeting on Tuesday May 5 decided that the status quo remains,” began a statement from the GFA, as seen by ESPN.
“The Executive Council further decided that the Association will continue to monitor the situation and would revisit it on June 30 2020 after a careful assessment and evaluation of the issue and to take further decisions.”
It remains to be seen whether CAF will accept this response.
Guinea, Angola and Kenya moved quickly to conclude their leagues, although not without some controversy for the latter.
Kenyan FA president Nick Mwendwa cancelled the league on April 30, declaring Gor Mahia champions and CAF CL qualifiers in accordance with federation statues which state that if the campaign ends prematurely before reaching the three-quarter mark, the table at the halfway point of the season will stand.
However, the decision has been contested by the KPL — the league’s governing body — while second-placed Kakamega Homeboyz have also warned that they will mount a court challenge to the ruling. Kenya is currently under curfew until May 16.
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The Angolan Girabola only had five matchdays to play, but club presidents agreed unanimously in a conference call on Friday to end the campaign and send top two — Petro Atletico and Primeiro de Agosto — to CAF competitions, although the former will not be declared champions.
Mauritius had already taken the decision to end their season, confirming before CAF’s communiqué that they would cancel the current campaign at all levels of the football’s pyramid.
Since then, Liberia have also cancelled their season, although the country’s football authorities have decided upon a four-team playoff involving the top four teams in the league to decide the Champions League qualifiers.
Congo-Brazzaville, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Niger have also cancelled the rest of their campaigns, with each offering various different strategies to deal with deciding CAF representatives, relegation and promotion.
In Congo, reigning champions AS Otoho — who led the table at the time of suspension, 14 points clear with six games to play — will retain their championship following the decision to cancel their league. Otoho will advance to the Champions League, with Diables Noirs set to enter the Confederation Cup.
The Ethiopian Federation, in a statement as seen by ESPN, revealed their decision to end the season with immediate effect.
“Considering the country is under a state of emergency and the unpredictability of the coronavirus outbreak, we have decided to cancel all of this year’s league games,” the statement said.
The country, which is under a state of emergency, has opted not to send any representatives to next season’s CAF competitions, and there will be no promotion or relegation.
On Monday, Burkina Faso announced the decision to cancel their campaign without any relegation or promotion, and no champions declared. Rahimo FC and Salitas will get another opportunity to compete in continental competition, having been the country’s two representatives in 2019-20.
Mauritania concluded their league campaign on Monday, in an announcement which also announced financial support packages for clubs and players, although the nation are yet to decide upon their representatives for CAF competitions.