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African clubs retain away goals after Europe scraps rule

Johannesburg (AFP) – The 2021-2022 African club competitions, whose qualifying draws are scheduled for Cairo on Friday, will retain the away-goals system despite Europe scrapping the rule. 

European football body UEFA abandoned the rule for its three club competitions this season, saying statistics proved that the original motive of encouraging away teams to attack was no longer relevant.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said the away-goal rule actually discourages home teams from attacking, especially in first legs.

Some African football followers believed the change was introduced by world governing body FIFA and applied to all continents.

However, a senior CAF official told AFP that “this announcement was made by UEFA and, therefore, applies (only) in their competitions”.

Africa and Europe also differ when clubs are level on goal aggregate — and away goals in the case of CAF competitions — after the home and away matches in a knockout fixture.

In Europe, an additional 30 minutes are played at the ground of the side hosting the return match and, if the teams are still tied on aggregate, a penalty shootout decides the winners.

But African officials believe it is unfair to give one team an additional 30 minutes of playing at home and ties go straight to a shootout.

Title-holders Al Ahly of Egypt are among 54 clubs who have entered the CAF Champions League, the most prestigious African club competition with a $2.5 million (2.13 mn euros) first prize, this season.

– Red-carded –

Ahly have been champions a record nine times, most recently two months ago when they defeated 10-man Kaizer Chiefs of South Africa 3-0 in a single-match final in Morocco.

Happy Mashiane was red-carded just before half-time with the match goalless and Ahly dominated the second half to win through goals from Mohamed Sherif, Mohamed ‘Afsha’ Magdy and Amro el Soulia.

There are 10 other former champions in the field, including two five-time title-holders, TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zamalek of Egypt.

The others are Esperance and Etoile Sahel of Tunisia, Raja and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, ASEC of the Ivory Coast, Entente Setif of Algeria, Hearts of Oak of Ghana, and Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa. 

Three winners of other CAF competitions — Horoya of Guinea, Al Merrikh of Sudan and Stade Malien of Mali — are also contenders.

The 51-club CAF Confederation Cup field includes the 2021 runners-up JS Kabylie of Algeria and the losing semi-finalists, Coton Sport of Cameroon and Pyramids of Egypt.

Four former CAF champions — Kabylie, Enyimba of Nigeria, Orlando Pirates of South Africa and V Club of DR Congo — have entered the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League.

The two competitions share the same dates for qualifying matches with the preliminary round set for September 10-12 and 17-19 and the round of 32 for October 15-17 and 22-24.

Confederation Cup play-offs will be played on November 26-28 and December 3-5 and group matches in both competitions kick off on February 11. 

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