As South African representatives Kaizer Chiefs prepare for their maiden CAF Champions League final, we will be looking back at the history of the continent’s prime competition in a four part series of CAF Champions League History.
Part 1 of this series goes way back, starting in the 60s – before South Africa’s reinstatement into FIFA, with Part 2 (1990s), Part 3 (2000s) and Part 4 (2010s) to follow, as we build up to the 17 July final.
A brief history of CAF
CAF as an organization was founded in 1957 following discussions in the years leading up to and just after the FIFA Congress in 1954.
CAF is the organizer of major competitions on the continent, and is responsible for national team tournaments (Africa Cup of Nations, Africa Womens Cup of Nations etc), regional tournaments (e.g COSAFA Cup for Southern Africa, CECAFA Cup for East and Central Africa etc) and also club tournaments (e.g CAF Champions League, CAF Confederations Cup etc).
Although South Africa was excluded from these competitions until 1992 for political reasons (except in 1963), the country was actually involved at the very beginning of the organization’s formation.
4 – South Africa was one of the four founding CAF members – alongside Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia.
The CAF Champions League started in 1964, and is the main annual club tournament, contested by top sides from all over the continent. In fact, the tournament started off as the “African Cup of Champions Clubs”, a title it would be known by for the next 43 years. The inaugural competition was also known as the Kwame Nkrumah Cup, after the first Ghana Prime Minister and President Kwame Nkrumah donated the trophy.
He was the leader of the first Sub-Saharan country to be independent from colonialism, and a continental football competition was part of his vision towards a “United States of Africa”. Indeed, a lot of African football history runs parallel with the continent’s socio-political story.
1 – Oryx Douala of Cameroon won the 1st Africa Cup of Champions Clubs, beating Stade Malien of Mali 2-1 in a one-legged final in that 1964/65 season.
1960s – West and Central Africa’s early battles
The inaugural final between a Cameroon and Mali side set the tone for the early years, with West African and Central African teams dominating the latter stages of the tournament. The first tournament featured 14 teams, and there was no tournament the following year. Between 1966 and 1969, the number of participants would fluctuate between 13 and 20.
9 – Nine of the first ten finalists between 1965 and 1969 were either West African (5) or Central
This was also mirrored in the national team setups, with three of the four AFCON tournaments in the
60s won by either a West African (2) or a Central African country (1).
1970s – West African domination
The club tournament grew in the 70s, with up to 29 teams participating in 1977. In fact, a few sides representing Lesotho and Swaziland also participated for the first time in the 70s. Another club that made its debut in the 70s was Al Ahly, who first participated in 1976.
However, even their arrival would immediately not stem the tide that was going west.
70% – 14 of the 20 finalists in the African Cup tournaments in the 70s were from West Africa, with the region also providing 7 of the 10 winners between 1970 and 1979. On the national front, the dominance was not as clear cut with five major regions – West, Central, Eastern, North and Southern Africa all providing at least one AFCON finalist. Yet, with 4 finalists in the 70s, West Africa still had the most.
1980s – North Africa starts to makes its mark
It was around the 80s that North Africans started to make their mark on the continental stage.
Although Al-Ismaily (UAR/Egypt) featured in a 60s final, and Ghazl El Mahalla (Egypt) & MC Alger (Algeria) featured in a 70s final, only in the 80s did the likes of Al Ahly, Zamalek and Raja Casablanca start to consistently compete. Al Ahly won their first title in 1982, retaining the Cup just five years later.
9 – There was at least one North African finalist in nine successive finals in the 80s between 1981 and 1989.
This streak would go on for 14 years, with at least one North African team in the showpiece final until 1994. By the time Zamalek and Esperance battled it out for continental glory in an all-North Africa tie in 1994, the Northern hegemony was well and truly established. It took a South African and Ivorian side to break that streak (Details in Part 2 of the series).
African Cup/ Champions League Winners by year, team and country in the 60s, 70s and 80s.
1965: Oryx Douala (Cameroon)
1966: Stade Abidjan (Ivory Coast)
1967: TP Mazembe (Congo DR)
1968: TP Mazembe (Congo DR)
1969: Ismaily (Egypt)
1970: Asante Kotoko (Ghana)
1971: Canon Yaoundé (Cameroon)
1972: Hafia FC (Guinea)
1973: AS Vita Club (Congo DR)
1974: CARA (Congo)
1975: Hafia FC (Guinea)
1976: MC Alger (Algeria)
1977: Hafia FC (Guinea)
1978: Canon Yaoundé (Cameroon)
1979: Union Sportive Douala (Cameroon)
1980: Canon Yaoundé (Cameroon)
1981: JE Tizi-Ouzou (Algeria)
1982: Al-Ahly (Egypt)
1983: Asante Kotoko (Ghana)
1984: Zamalek (Egypt)
1985: FAR de Rabat (Morocco)
1986: Zamalek (Egypt)
1987: Al-Ahly (Egypt)
1988: ES Sétif (Algeria)
1989: Raja Casablanca (Morocco)
By Opta Jabu