Sports

A tumultuous year for African football

JOHANNESBURG. — Like the rest of the sporting world, African football was subjected to a tumultuous 2020, hit not only by the novel coronavirus but also by on-going scandal.

Competition was halted in March, as was the case around the globe, except for the small East African country of Burundi, who continued to play despite a near worldwide shutdown.

But while Europe took just several months to get their league restarted again, the myriad of differing regulations across Africa left most borders shut and it was only in October that international competition resumed.

Even then, most African national teams went to Europe to play a week of friendly matches rather than risk Covid-19 lockdowns on the continent when national teams resumed playing in October.

The pandemic ensured that all this year’s drama was crammed into the last two months of the season, although the on-field spectacle was matched by activity off it.

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The much-anticipated suspension of Confederation of African Football president Ahmad Ahmad of Madagascar was handed down by FIFA’s ethics committee, more than a year after allegations of fraud, theft and sexual harassment were first levelled against him.

The timing of his five-year ban came just days before the closure of nominations for the next CAF presidential elections, to be held in March, ruling Ahmad out of an attempted comeback even if he wins his appeal at the Court of Arbitration in Sport.

He is not the first confederation president to be suspended in such a manner but it is of major embarrassment to Africa to have its leadership so sullied by corruption.

It would have mattered little, however, to genuine fans who had to wait more than six months before seeing Al Ahly of Egypt win the African Champions League.

Magdi Afsha scored with just four minutes remaining, burying a long-range scorcher into the net with a strike worthy of winning any final.

That it came against arch rivals Zamalek made it even sweeter for the Ahly, whose record number of titles in the continent’s top club competition now advances to nine and sends them to February’s Club World Cup in Qatar.

It also reinforces the Cairo club’s position as the most successful in Africa club football, even though it was their first Champions League title in seven years.

Here is a list of the champions of various African leagues where a winner was declared this year:

Algeria — CR Belouizdad

Botswana — Jwaneng Galaxy

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Burundi — Le Messager Ngozi

Cameroon — PWD Bamenda

Chad — Gazelle

Comoros — US Zilimadjou

Congo — AS Otohô

Djibouti — GR/SIAF

DR Congo — TP Mazembe

Egypt — Al Ahly

Eswatini — Young Buffaloes

Ivory Coast — RC Abidjan

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Kenya — Gor Mahia

Lesotho — Bantu FC

Mali — Stade Malien

Mauritania — FC Nouadhibou

Morocco — Raja Casablanca

Rwanda — APR

South Africa — Mamelodi Sundowns

Somalia — Mogadishu City

Sudan — Al Merrikh

Tanzania — Simba FC

Togo — ASKO Kara

Tunisia — Espérance de Tunis

Uganda — Vipers

Zambia — Nkana FC

Zanzibar — Mlandege  — AFP.

HERALD