West Africa club decline reflects

The declining power of west African football clubs will be reflected in the CAF Champions League group draw in Cairo on Wednesday, where none have qualified.

The failure is all the more alarming as the number of qualifiers has doubled this year from eight to 16 in a new format.

West Africa is home to five of the top 10 ranked African national teams — Senegal, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ghana and the Ivory Coast — and clubs from the west have won 26 CAF titles, making them the second most successful region after the north (75).

But the last west African club to lift a continental trophy was Enyimba of Nigeria in 2005 after beating Ghana’s Hearts of Oak in the Super Cup.

The situation is marginally better for the west in the secondary CAF Confederation Cup draw with Rivers United of Nigeria and Horoya of Guinea among the qualifiers.

Of the 32 clubs in the two Cairo draws, 12 come from the north, nine from the south, five from the east, four from the centre and two from the west.

Respected Ivory Coast football analyst Elie Kambire says a number of factors have contributed to the decline of west African club football.

“There is a lack of financial means, quality training facilities and professional organisation,” he told AFP in Abidjan.

“Other reasons for the decline include low-quality national championships and a massive exodus of young talent to Europe.

“A lack of financial support from the public authorities has also contributed to the decay.

“Abidjan club ASEC Mimosas are an exception, but they have been affected by a decade of political and military crises in the country.

“West African club football is battling to keep pace, particularly with Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, South Africa and TP Mazembe in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Garba Lawal, a former Nigeria World Cup star and now part of the national football federation technical committee, paints an equally depressing picture.

“Club football in west Africa is going down. Previously, we were a lot more competitive in Africa,” he told AFP.

“I played for Esperance of Tunisia and, looking back, I can say that it was a very professional club, close to what I experienced when I played in Europe.

“Our (west African) clubs are just not professional — the structures are not stable and this is reflected in recent results.”

The Champions League contenders include record eight-time champions Al Ahly of Egypt, compatriots Zamalek and title-holders Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa.

Tunisian teams are likely to pose a strong threat through Etoile Sahel, the only club to win all five past and current CAF competitions, and Esperance.

Title-holders Mazembe and three-time winners CS Sfaxien of Tunisia are the sides to beat in the Confederation Cup, the African equivalent of the Europa League.

South Africa will have two sides, Platinum Stars and SuperSport United, in the mini-league phase for the first time.

Champions League qualifiers are guaranteed $550,000 (505,000 euros) and those in the Confederation Cup $275,000 (250,000 euros).