Evolution of CAF Competitions
Over the years, the competitions of the Confederation of African Football have evolved both quantitatively and qualitatively. From just one in 1957, after the establishment of the organisation, we are presently at eleven (11), in terms conventional football, which is played in teams of eleven players. To these eleven competitions, African Futsal and Beach-soccer championships, two versions of football, should be added.
Some of these competitions, especially those of age categories, serve as qualification tournaments towards the World Cup.
CAF also plays an important role in the organisation of other competitions, which are not directly under its control, but for which she organises eliminatories. For instance the African Games, or the Olympic Games.
The popularity and success of CAF competitions, despite the financial situation and challenges facing the continent cannot be underestimated. Especially considering geographical factors, which manifest in varied ways, such as moving from one location to another and infrastructures. Such a progress is not just a result of the visionary leadership the organization has enjoyed over time.
It should be noted that from its inception, CAF has never failed in organizing any of its competitions.
1- The Africa Cup of Nations
It is now the 3rd world football competition in terms of its cumulative TV audience, coming after the FIFA World Cup and the European Nations Championship (Euro).
The Africa Cup of Nations holds every two years. The number of participants at the final phase, which is ever increasing, is 16 since 1996.
The first edition was played in 1957 avec countries competing: Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and South Africa. The latter was later on disqualified due to the politics of racial segregation – known as apartheid that was going on in the country. In fact South Africa refused to send a multiracial team the competition, and was excluded. This directly qualified Ethiopia for the finals where she was beaten by Egypt, which won over Sudan at the semi-finals. This first final of the Africa Cup of Nations, which ended in 4-0 for Egypt was played on Saturday 16th February 1957 in Khartoum, Sudan.
In 1962 the tournament was divided into two phases: the qualification phase and the finals phase. The qualification phase was played following a system of direct elimination, with away and return leg matches.
In 1992, the qualification phase became a mixt phase following an addition of a pool system to the direct elimination system. The number of participants, which was eight (8) in 1986, rose to twelve (12).
In 1996, the number of participants at the finals went from 12 to 16 with the return of South Africa into the family of African football, which was also the host country.
The 16 finalists are divided into 4 pools of 4 teams each. The first two from each pool qualify for the quarter finals. The four victorious teams at the quarter finals will play the semi-finals, from where the two finalists will emerge, who will confront each other for the champion to stand out.
The winner of the Africa Cup of Nations represents the Continent at the FIFA Confederations Cup.
2- The Africa Nations Championship
This competition, of which the first edition took place in Ivory Coast in 2009, is characteristically African. It is contested among national club sides and exclusively brings together players that play in their national championships. Players who are playing abroad, in or out of the continent, are not eligible to take part in the tournament. From eight participants during its first edition, it moved directly to 16 at its 2nd edition, played in Sudan in 2011. Since 2014, at its 3rd edition in South Africa, the competition is recognised by FIFA, which has added it to the competitions that are considered when setting up FIFA classification.
3- CAF Champions League
The CAF Champions League, formerly known as the African Club Champions Cup, was started in 1964, and was played by teams that ended up as winners of the championships of member associations.
The present structure of the championship, having a direct eliminatory phase coupled with a group phase was started in 1997. In 2004, CAF increased the representation of some countries in this competition by allowing the first 12 countries on its annual classification, set up on the basis of the performance of clubs at interclub competitions, to have two representatives. In principle, the first and second teams in the final classification of their national championships.
The first phase of the competition, wish is divided in rounds is based on a direct elimination system, which is played in away and return leg matches. The winners of the last round of this phase qualify for the second phase, which is based on a pool system; given that the losers a sent over to the CAF Confederations Cup.
The eight teams that qualify for the pools phase are divided through draws into 2 pools of four, and they confront each other in each pool in away and return leg matches. The first two teams from each pool qualify for crossed semi-finals (1st A vs 2nd B and 1st B vs 2nd A) before the final, from where the winner shall be known and will represent Africa at the FIFA Clubs World Cup.
4- The CAF Confederation Cup
The CAF Confederation Cup was birth from a twinning of the Cup Winners Cup created in 1975 and the CAF Cup launched in 1992. The Confederation Cup was started in 2004 and brings together the winners of the national cups of member associations and teams that ended up in 3rd positions in the championships of the 12 countries.
CAF allows the 12 countries to bring in two clubs, of which on is the winner of the national cup and the third in the final classification of the national championship. The 12 countries are chosen following an annual classification defined by CAF
The first stage of the competition is a direct eliminations phase, which is played in rounds of home and away leg matches. The winners of the last round of this phase clash with the losers of the last round of the CAF Champions League in order to screen the eight teams that for the pools stage.
The eight teams that qualify for the pools phase are grouped up into two pools of four and they clash against each other in each pool in home and away leg matches. The first two teams from each pool qualify for cross semi-finals (1st A vs 2nd B and 1st B vs 2nd A), which will lead to two finalists competing for the trophy.
5- The CAF Super Cup
CAF Super Cup, established in 1992, opposes the winners of the Champions League and Confederation Cup. It is a single encounter, which in principle is played on the pitch of the winner of the Champions League. CAF can also choose, for various reasons, to have the game played on the field of the winner of the Confederation Cup or on some neutral ground.
6- The U-23 Africa Championship
It is the Benjamin of CAF competitions. It serves as an eliminatory stage for the Olympic games. The first edition was played in December 2011 in Morocco. It is played in two stages. An eliminatory phase and final phase. The eliminatories are done in home and away leg matches through direct elimination. As a result, seven teams get qualified for the final tournament, including the host country, and are divided into two pools of four. It is contested in each pool in home leg matches only.
The first two teams of each pool get qualified for cross semi-finals (1st A vs 2nd B and 1st B vs 2nd A), to pick out the finalists who automatically qualify for the Olympic Games. The winners of the classification among the losers of the semi-finals roundup the list Africa’s representatives to the Olympic Games.
7- The U-20 Africa Championship
The U-20 African Championship is one of the age category competitions organised by CAF. It is meant for players under 20 years old by the date of the actual edition of the championship.
The entire first edition, played in 1979 under the appellation Tessema Cup, was already being used at that time as a qualification tournament World Cup of the category. Until 1989, it was played as a direct elimination tournament in away and return leg matches. In 1991, CAF introduced a qualification and a final phases that we played in a host country by 8 teams. The teams are grouped into two pools of 4 through draws and the teams confront each other within each pool.
The first two from each pool qualify for the U-20 World Cup and cross semi-finals (1st A vs 2nd B and 1st B vs 2nd A) to pick out finalists.
8- The U-17 Africa Championship
From 1985 – 1993, the Under 17 African Championship mainly served as a qualification tournament for the U-17 World Cup.
In 1995, it became a biennial competition on CAF’s calendar with qualification and final phases played by 8 teams in a country. The eight teams, which qualified for the pool stage were divided through draws into 2 pools of 4 and clashed against each other within the pool. The first two teams from each pool qualified for the U-17 World Cup and for the cross semi-finals (1st A vs 2nd B and 1st B vs 2nd A) to pick out the finalists.
9- The Africa Feminine Championship
The African Feminine Championship was established by CAF in 1998. CAF made of it a two-yearly, which take place every other year. It equally serves as a qualification tournament for Feminine World Cup.
The final phase is contested by 8 teams divided into 2 pools of 4 teams each. The first two from each pool qualify for the semi-finals from where the two finalists shall emerge, who automatically qualify for the World Cup. The 2nd representative of the African Continent to the World Cup is the winner of the classification match between the two losers of the semi-finals.
10- The Feminine U-20 Africa Championship
This is the first female competition of age category organised by CAF. It is for national feminine teams of less than 20 years old. It operates on a system of direct elimination through home and away leg matches following draws that help to determine Africa’s two representatives to the World Cup of this category, after many eliminatory rounds, which generally depend on the number of teams involved.
When the competition was established in 2002, it was meant for girls less than 19 years old. This age limit was raised up to 20 since 2006.
11- The U-17 Africa Feminine Championship
Established in 2008, the competition takes place every two years and is mainly used as a qualification stage for the World Cup of the category. It is contested by direct elimination through home and away leg matches after knockout draws. At the end, three teams are qualified for the World Cup.
12- The Africa Futsal Championship
It is organised every four years and also serves as a qualifying tournament for this genre of football, which is played in a hall, on the floor between two teams of five players each.
13- The Africa Beach-Soccer Championship
The first edition, under the auspices of CAF shall be organised in 2015 in Seychelles. This competition, played on sand, bare feet, would be held every two years. It serves mainly as a qualifying tournament for the “Coupe du monde du football de plage”, as called by French language purists, who try to avoid the English appellation: Beach-Soccer, by which the football is popularly known.
The All African Games
The All Africa Games are held every four years under the auspices of the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa (SCSA). CAF organises the eliminatories of this omnisports competition. They are knockout matches played in home and away legs. As a result of the eliminatories, eight teams, representing the different zones of the African continent as defined by the SCSA, qualify for the final competition, for the masculine as well as feminine tournament.