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African club finals to change to one-match contests – Ahmad

Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Ahmad Ahmad attends a press conference in Cairo a day before before the Africa Cup of Nations kicked off last month © AFP / MOHAMED EL-SHAHED

CAIRO, Egypt, Jul 17CAF club finals will be reduced from two legs to one match at a neutral venue from next season, African football boss Ahmad Ahmad announced Wednesday.

“The Champions League and Confederation Cup finals will now be played as single matches,” the CAF president said on Twitter.

The first final of the Champions League, then called the African Cup of Champions Clubs, was staged as a single match in Ghana 54 years ago.

But every subsequent final of the continent’s premier club competition has been played over two legs with the aggregate score determining the winners.

However, the result of the latest final, between Esperance of Tunisia and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, has not been decided nearly seven weeks after the second leg was played.

Wydad refused to continue playing in Tunisia when their equaliser, which would have levelled the overall scores, could not be referred to VAR because the system had malfunctioned.

CAF presented the trophy and medals to Esperance only to order a replay at a neutral venue, a decision which has led both clubs to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Ahmad did not give reasons for the change in his tweet, but the decision is a huge gamble as it could result in the club season showpieces being watched by tiny crowds.

When the CAF Super Cup, an annual one-off match between the Champions League and second-tier Confederation Cup winners, was introduced in 1993, neutral venues were used.

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But the crowds were so low that the format was ditched after just three editions in favour of the Champions League trophy-holders enjoying home advantage.

The ongoing Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt has confirmed a decades-old trend of football followers in the continent backing only home sides.

Egypt drew capacity 75,000 crowds to the Cairo International Stadium while many attractive matches not involving them were watched by less than 10,000 spectators.

Malagasy Ahmad also tweeted that the number of qualifiers for the biennial Africa Women’s Cup of Nations will increase from eight to 12 for the 2020 tournament.

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