It has been 69 years since the first Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League games were played. Despite that, African clubs have never had a common voice in their dealings with the continental body that covers soccer. But all that has changed after the African Club Association (ACA) was launched in Cairo, Egypt, on November 30.
It is the brainchild of Patrice Motsepe, president of the CAF. Motsepe, a billionaire businessman, is the founder of Mamelodi Sundowns, one of the most successful clubs in the South African Premier Soccer League (PSL). He stepped down after assuming leadership of CAF.
Motsepe's interest in club football has led to the creation of the ACA, envisioned as a model of the European Club Association, to be a voice for the clubs who previously had no representation on the executive committee of CAF.
The ACA's first elected chairman is Hersi Said, president of Tanzanian club Young Africans. In the interview below, he told DW why it is an organization that is sorely needed.
DW: How did the clubs negotiate with CAF before?
Hersi Said: It was through the federation of a specific country. For example, all the football clubs in Tanzania who participate in Champions League or Confederation Cup, were contacted through the federation. Those local federations were the members of CAF, so it was a bit hectic. That's why this ACA will provide a lot of solutions actually.
What are the problems faced by African football clubs?
Football clubs in Africa are facing a number of issues, including sponsorship. We're talking about the logistics and cost of running our clubs, talking about a number of elements when it comes to international competitions. For example, the preliminary rounds of CAF tournaments don't pay anything, but you've invested a lot to travel across the continent. When we sit together, we will start establishing the issues around football clubs in Africa in general and be able to analyze the issues and come up with the solutions
What will the funding model for the ACA be?
For now, it's going to be part of CAF and under the section of ACA. Later we'll be able to stand on our ground by creating our own platforms to generate revenues. But for now it will be funded by CAF.
How independent will the African Club Association be from CAF?
CAF is the No. 1 authority for football in Africa. There's no way we can create any other platform that is not affiliated to the decision-making body of football in Africa. The ACA is an organization that will be able to sit, discuss, analyze and find solutions for the problems of football clubs in Africa.
Are the clubs happy about the ACA?
This has been supported by all the clubs across the continent, and the structure of the ACA is based on what they came up with. CAF has six zones in Africa and every zone provides two members on the ACA board as well as three members from the women's section (of the CAF), making it 15 board members.
Could the ACA be a threat to CAF in future?
The reason for the formation of the ACA is not to fight CAF. My position is to look for problems and find solutions. And, since I'm also sitting on the CAF executive committee, I'll be able to present issues which are very genuine and see how we can sort it out together. Football clubs in Africa are the ones providing the players of the continent. We are the ones grooming all the players. And, if we are facing issues, we need to be helped. So those issues need to be solved.
Edited by: Matt Pearson