SAFA feels they have been unfairly criticised for supporting Mamelodi Sundowns to participate in the African Football League (AFL) because they’ve always backed SA teams in CAF competitions.
A few weeks ago, having been made aware that it was going to be another stormy row between the association and the PSL in terms of the inaugural AFL due to the scheduling complex, 31 clubs in the NSL were not in favour of Sundowns going to play in the eight-team tournament.
The BOG (Board of Governors), which is made up of 32 clubs but 31 in this case in the first meeting to take a resolution about the AFL and Sundowns featuring in it, initially weren’t in favour of it.
But another meeting followed and, together with PSL chairman Dr. Irvin Khoza, it was agreed that Sundowns will have to feature in the tournament that is a brainchild of FIFA president Gianni Infantino, where only the best on the African continent will feature initially with eight teams as the pilot project and next year with 24 teams.
The PSL’s gripe in this case was that there was a lack of communication between CAF, SAFA and the PSL leadership when it comes to the dates as the PSL had already worked on its scheduling at the start of the season based on the FIFA and CAF dates, which did not include that of AFL.
It is why Sundowns’ Carling Knockout Cup match against TS Galaxy at Mbombela Stadium was played on Wednesday as it was brought forward to accommodate the AFL.
“We are supportive of any CAF competitions that happen because we are a member of CAF,” SAFA CEO Lydia Monyepao told the iDiski Times.
“They started talking about the AFL a while ago before I was even the CEO and the AFL was already being discussed. So we already endorsed that competition.
“When we issued the letter, it was a formal endorsement because we had endorsed the competition a long time ago when Tebogo Motlanthe was still the CEO.
“It is the same way we endorsed the CAF Champions League, the CAF Confederation Cup. Like I’m saying, we are a member of CAF and these things are decided in the executive committee meetings and AGM [annual general meeting]. That was the decision that was taken and we are in support of it.”
Sundowns, if they win the AFL, stand to earn a prize money of around about R76 million, which dwarfs the DStv Premiership title prize money championship of R15 million.
It is why the 31 clubs, in consideration of its partners and sponsors, were initially up in arms as they felt it would devalue the league and Sundowns will prioritise the AFL since the money is huge and they will opt to play a second string squad in domestic competitions, and this concern was previously raised by Galaxy chairman Tim Sukazi early this year.
The Tshwane giants will start the AFL against Petro de Luanda at Estádio 11 de Novembro on Saturday (17:30).