Cape Town City boss John Comitis sounds alarm over African Football League

Cape Town City boss John Comitis sounds alarm over African Football League

Cape Town City chairman John Comitis has raised the alarm on how the introduction of the African Football League (AFL) poses a risk to the South African domestic game.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) this year launched the inaugural competition with the best-eight ranked teams in Africa getting the nod – one of them being Mamelodi Sundowns, who host Wydad Casablanca in the second leg of the final at Loftus Stadium on Sunday.

READ: Top PSL coaches headline return of CAF A license to SA

But the Premier Soccer League only approved The Brazilians’ participation in the inaugural AFL several days before the tournament kicked off, having initially voted against it at an impromptu Board of Governors (BOG) meeting in October. 

The dispute was over a lack of information around a tournament believed to be FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s brain-child, and the sudden need to move three Sundowns fixtures to accommodate the month-long competition. 

Comitis – also a member of the PSL executive committee – in an interview on Metro FM’s Sports Night Amplified suggested the AFL will be tricky to squeeze into the local calendar moving forward. 

"I don’t want to talk out of turn as an executive member, [but] I certainly have my concerns and don’t think anyone in our organisation is against progress for football on the African continent – but certainly not at the detriment of our local game," Comitis told host Andile Ncube.

"We have taken 20 years with the vision of Dr Irvin Khoza and Dr Kaizer Motaung to build an industry in South Africa that’s unsurpassed, nobody else in Africa has what we have.

"This could affect us seriously down the line and we don’t want to be just another country with a disorganised league – without revenue and funding when it’s taken us this long to build one of the best leagues on the continent."

Comitis said the issue was not about the R76-million prize bonanza for winners but rather the logistical nightmare of finding new fixture dates in an already jam-packed calendar that also accounts for CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup dates.

"It’s not about the money, but the time they wish to schedule the fixtures. We have a league to run in SA, commitment to sponsors and broadcasters," he continued.

"We can’t sit with [unplayed] fixtures if the AFL increases in size. We allowed this to happen outside the CAF calendar, this wasn’t an obligation. 

"We did not have to endorse this. There’s a FIFA rule that CAF has to work within the fixture dates – outside of that we would have to be in agreement. 

"We looked at the bigger picture and allowed for it to be what it is. At the moment we are managing it, but what happens if when there are a few more teams? When will we play other cup competitions? We cannot be responsible for the demise of our own product."

The veteran administrator further questioned whether his club City, with only a handful of appearances in CAF competitions since 2016, could ever have a shot at featuring in the AFL. 

"Is it an aspirational league? Can I get in if I do well? I am not sure really, to be honest because I am not sure if this is an elite boys’ club, by selection or by merit. Those things aren’t clear to us, respectfully," he said. 

CAF uses a five-year ranking system not only to seed teams for inter-club tournaments, but to determine AFL participants as well.