Top African Football Leagues
No doubt football in Africa has advanced; the proof to that could be Senegal’s 1-0 win over France in 2002 FIFA World Cup. On the other hand, there are several top African players in top-tier European leagues who have played some time in African leagues. Which are those top African leagues?
Egyptian Premier League
Founded in October 1948, the Egyptian Premier League is one of the top professional football leagues in Africa. 18 teams compete in the professional Egyptian league including Al-Ahly which is one of the most successful clubs in Egypt andthe most decorated football club in the world
with 118 trophies won so far both domestic and intercontinental. Two domestic cups are defined within the Egyptian Premier League: Egyptian Cup and Egyptian Super Cup. The top goalscorer in the history of the Egyptian premier league is Hassan El Shazly, former Tersana forward, with 173 goals.
The tier after the Egyptian Premier League in Egypt’s football league system is Egyptian Second Division. That means if a team is relegated from the Egyptian Premier League, it should inevitably compete the in Egyptian Second Division. One interesting fact about the Egyptian Premier League is that all the clubs competing in it could also compete in the Egyptian Cup, but only one club - the winner of the league title - could take part in the Egyptian Super Cup. The Egyptian Premier League is also one of the top African leagues, in fact, the third top African league according to CAF's 5-Year Ranking for the 2019–20 season.
Tunisian Ligue Professionnelle 1
Founded in June 1907, Tunisian Ligue Professionnelle 1 is the top-tier league in the Tunisian football league system. It was held in its early years only between five teams, two of them were school teams! With the formation of LTF (Ligue Tunisienne de football) in 1921 which is actually the football federation of Tunisia, the professional league became official. Currently 16 teams compete in the Tunisian Ligue Professionnelle 1 with Espérance de Tunis being the most successful and most decorated of them all in terms of league titles won so far (29 titles). There is only one cup defined within the professional Tunisian league and that is the Tunisian Cup.
If a team is relegated from Tunisian Ligue Professionnelle 1, it has to compete in Ligue Professionnelle 2 which is actually the second tier of the Tunisian football league system. The other top clubs competing in the Tunisian Ligue Professionnelle 1, other than Espérance de Tunis, areClub Africain
, Etoile Sportive du Sahel, Club Athletic Bizertin, and Club Sportif Sfaxien, founded in 1920, 1925, and 1928 (for the last two), respectively. Among the Tunisian top clubs, only Club Africain and Espérance de Tunis have the largest stadiums in Tunis with a capacity of 60,000.
The Algerian Ligue Professionnelle 1
One of the oldest African football leagues known by several names! Names like Championnat National de Première Division which was often shortened to Championnat National 1, Championnat d'Algérie D1 Nedjma in 2009, Ligue Professionnelle 1 Nedjma from 2010 to 2014 - the name “Nedjma” comes from the Kuwaiti telecommunications company, Nedjma, which was the sponsor of the professional league, and from 2014 on, Ligue Professionnelle 1 Mobilis, again for sponsorship reasons. However, the easiest way to refer to the professional league in Algeria is to call it Ligue 1.
Ligue 1 was founded in 1904 and became official in 1962 when Algeria was declared an independent nation. Ligue 1 along with another league, namely the Algerian Ligue Professionnelle 2 or Ligue 2 are the two top-tier leagues in the Algerian football league system with relegations and promotions between them. In fact, in every season, three top clubs from Ligue 2 promote to Ligue 1 and three clubs at the bottom of Ligue 1 table relegate to Ligue 2. 16 clubs compete in each of the leagues, and the most successful clubs in term of league titles won in them areJS Kabylie
in Ligue 1 with 14 titles, and USM Bel-Abbès in Ligue 2 with 5 titles. Also, the top scorer in the history of Ligue 1 is Mohamed Messaoud with 107 goals scored in total.
Ghana Premier League
Founded in 1956, Ghana Premier League is the top-tier league in the Ghanaian football league system with two domestic cups: Ghana FA Cup and Ghana Super Cup. In terms of ranking, Ghana Premier League was the 11th top football league in Africa and 65th in the world from 2001 to 2010 according to a ranking by IFFHS (The International Federation of Football History & Statistics). However, according to another ranking done by the same organization in 2019, Nigeria has replaced Ghana with 271 points and sits on the 77th place in the world.
The most successful team in Ghana Premier League isAsante Kotoko
with a record 24 league titles won so far. The next tier after the Ghana Premier League is Division One League. In every season, three teams are exchanged between the two leagues: three are relegated from the Ghana Premier League, and three are promoted to it, namely from the Division One League. Currently, 18 teams compete in the Ghana Premier League, and 16 in the Division One League. And besides Asante Kotoko, there is another top team in the Ghanaian top-tier league, namely Hearts of Oak, who have won a considerable number of league titles (20) so far. The two teams have, in fact, dominated the Ghanaian professional league in terms of the league titles won.
Botola Pro 1 (Morocco)
The top-tier Moroccan league,Botola Pro 1
also known as Botola 1 or Botola, is contested by 16 top Moroccan clubs who are actually the shareholders of the professional league. Botola Pro 1 is in fact a corporation and is sponsored by Maroc Télécom, the main telecommunication company in Morocco, however, after 2019, the Maroc Télécom logo is not included in the professional league logo. In terms of audience, Botola Pro 1 ranks first among the African leagues: the top-tier Moroccan league has been broadcast in 153 regions to an audience of 2 billion people so far. Also in 2010-11 season, its average attendance (over 25,000) was more than any other African league.
In the same season, Botola Pro 1 was announced the top African league with 511 points - occupying 27th place on the list of top leagues in the world - according to a ranking by IFFHS. There is only one domestic cup defined within the top Moroccan league and that is Coupe du Trône (Moroccan Throne Cup). The most successful team in Botola Pro 1 is Wydad Casablanca with 20 league titles and 9 Moroccan Throne Cup trophies won so far. The next tier on the Moroccan football league pyramid after Botoloa Pro 1 is Botoloa 2; that means if a team is relegated from Botola 1, it should inevitably compete in Botola 2.
Sudan Premier League
Founded in 1965, Sudan Premier League is the top-tier league in the Sudanese football league system which is made up of only two tires: The first tier is the Sudan Premier League and the second tier is composed of regional leagues from whom and by playoffs teams get promoted to the top-tier Sudanese league. 17 teams compete in the Sudan Premier League with the most successful of them being Al-Hilal Club with 27 league titles so far. Please do not mistake Al-Hilal Club for Al-Hilal SFC which is a Saudi Arabian club.
Other than Sudan Premier League, there are also two other leagues, namely South Sudan Premier League and South Sudan Football Championship, which belong to South Sudan, an independent country that has gained independence from Sudan in 2011. The first season in the South Sudan Premier League started in 2013 with only 10 competing teams. Also there is only one domestic cup defined within the professional league called S.S.D Super Cup.
South African Premier Division
Founded in 1996, the South African Premier Division also known as Absa Premiership and Premier Division, is the top-tier league in the South African football league system. 16 teams compete in the professional South African league and at the end of each season only two of them are relegated to the second-tier league, National First Division. The team at the bottom of the Premier Division table is automatically replaced with the champions of the National First Division, and the team that is finished 15th in the top-tier league table will compete with the 2nd and 3rd teams in the second-tier league in playoffs. The winner will have a place in the top-tier league in the next season.
The dominating club in the South African Premier Division since its foundation has beenMamelodi Sundowns
with 9 league titles won so far, and the top-scorer in the professional league history is the retired forward, Siyabonga Nomvethe, with 111 goals. There are two domestic cups defined within the professional South African league, namely Nedbank Cup and MTN 8. The Premier Division used to be contested by 18 teams until 2001-02 season that two teams, namely Ria Stars and Free State Stars, were disbanded to avoid fixture congestion.
Elite 1 (Cameroon)
The Championnat du Cameroun de football, also known as Elite 1 and MTN Elite 1 for sponsorship reasons, is the top-tier football league in Cameroon. The professional league was founded in 1961 and has been contested by 14 to 18 teams since. The most successful team in the league is Coton Sport FC with 15 league titles and 6 cups already won. Also there are two domestic cups defined within the top-tier Cameroonian league, namely Cameroon Cup and Super Coupe Roger Milla.
The second-tier in the Cameroonian football league system is Elite 2. Each season, three teams at the top of the league table will be promoted to Elite 1, and three teams at the bottom of the Elite 1 league table relegated to Elite 2. Cameroon is one of the African countries with the most number of football leagues. Not only Elite 1 and Elite 2, but also 10 regional leagues are there in the Cameroonian football league system. In Elite 1, there is another team besidesCoton Sport FC
, which is considered as a dominant team in the league with 10 league titles won so far. That team is Canon Sportif, and knowing that the best record among all the other teams competing in the professional league is 5 titles, one would probably admit that the two Cameroonian team already mentioned here are the giants of the league they compete in.
Zambia Super League
Founded in 1962, the Zambia Super League is one of the top African leagues ranked 7th by CAF (Confederation of African Football) among all the other African leagues. Zambia Super League is actually the top-tier (level 1) league of the Zambia football league system. The league is contested by 18 teams and each season two teams that have finished at the bottom of the league table will be relegated to the second-tier National Division One. Also from the National Division One, four teams finished at the top of the table compete in playoffs to determine the winners that should promote to Zambia’s top-tier league.
Zambia Super League is also known as MTN/FAZ Super Division for sponsorship reasons. The most successful team in the top-tier Zambian league is Nkana F.C. with 12 league titles and 13 cups already won. Mufulira Wanderers andZESCO United
are also two other successful teams in the Zambian professional league with the former having won 9 league titles and the latter 8. There is also one domestic cup defined within Zambia Super League named Absa Cup.
Ranked 9th among African leagues in a ranking done by IFFHS in 2018, Girabola is the top-tier league of the Angolan football. The league is contested by 16 teams with three bottom teams relegated to Segundona or Gira Angola, the second tier in the Angolan football league system, each season. Also the top two teams on the league table will qualify for Champions League and Confederation Cup for the next season.
Girabola was founded in 1979 and organized by the Angolan Football Federation. There are two domestic cups defined within the top-tier Angolan league: Taça de Angola (The Angolan Football Cup) and SuperTaça de Angola (The Angloan Football Super Cup). The most successful team in Girabola is Petro Atlético with 15 league titles, 11 Angolan Cup and 6 Angolan Super Cup trophies already won. Following Petro Atlético, is Primeiro de Agosto with 13 league titles, 6 Angolan Cup and 9 Angolan Super Cup trophies. The two teams are known as the giants of Angolan football as the other Angolan teams have not managed to win more than 4 league titles so far.
Nigerian Professional Football League
Another African league with several names already adopted like Nigerian Premier League (from 2003 to 2013 and 1993 to 2000), Nigerian Premiership (from 2000 to 2003), and Nigerian Professional League (from 1990 to 1993). Whatever its name, the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL), has been Nigeria’s top-tier football league since its foundation in 1972. The Professional league is contested by 20 teams and in each season 4 teams get relegated to the second-tier Nigeria National League and 3 qualified forCAF Champions League
(the top two teams) and CAF Confederation Cup (the following third team).
Three domestic cups are defined within the Nigerian top-tier league: Nigerian FA Cup, Nigerian Super Cup, and Super 4 (Nigeria), with the last one being contested between 4 teams that have represented Nigeria in CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup. The two most successful teams in the Nigerian professional league are Enyimba and Rangers International, with the former having won 8 NPFL titles, and 8 Nigerian cups, and the latter 7 NPFL titles and 7 Nigerian cups.
Chad Premier League
Founded in 1988, Chad Premier League known also as Linafoot, is the top-tier league in the Chadian football league system with 12 participating teams. The format of the league is somehow like World Cup. The 12 participating teams are divided in two groups of 6 and each team plays only once against the teams in the group it competes; this is actually unlike many other leagues in which each team plays twice against any other team in the league. Then the two teams that lead their groups play against each other; the winner qualifies for the CAF Champions League and the loser for the CAF Confederation Cup.
This was actually the format of the competition in 2018-19 season. If you just refer to previous seasons before 2018-19 season there might be little differences here and there. One interesting fact about the Chad Premier League is that 8 of the 12 teams that compete in the professional league have by now won the league title. The team that has won the most number of league titles is Renaissance FC with 7 titles, while Elect-Sport FC follows closely with 6 titles.
The Tanzania Mainland Premier League
Founded in 1963, the Tanzania Mainland Premier League is the top-tier league of football in Tanzania contested by 16 teams. From 2018-19 season, the format of the league has changed and become like other leagues: every team should play against all the other teams twice (home and away), and at the end of the league, based on the points each team has gained, the league champion and the teams that should be relegated in the next season - actually 3 teams - are decided.
The second tier in the Tanzanian football league system is the Tanzanian First Division League to which the 3 teams at the bottom of the top-tier league table will be relegated. There is one domestic cup defined within the Tanzanian top-tier league and that is Azam Sports Federation Cup. The most successful team in the Tanzania Mainland Premier League is Young Africans SC with 22 league titles and 4 Tanzanian cups won so far. Another top team in the same league is Simba SC with 20 league titles already won. It is as other teams in the Tanzanian professional league have not afforded to win the title more than 3 times at most.
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