AFRICAN glory-seekers this year include South African Tokyo Sexwale, who wants to be Fifa president, and Ivorian Yaya Toure, bidding for an unprecedented fifth straight CAF Footballer of the Year title.
Another off-field event certain to capture the attention of a continent in which football is the dominant sport will be the 2018 World Cup groups draw with 20 African teams eyeing five places in Russia.
Along with two World Cup matchdays, there will be four rounds of Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, the African Nations Championship and the Champions League and Confederation Cup club competitions.
AFP Sport sets the scene for an African football schedule that kicks off on January 7 with the CAF awards and could last until December 18 if the CAF champions reach the Club World Cup final.
Apartheid-era political prisoner cum business tycoon Sexwale hopes to succeed disgraced Sepp Blatter and become president of scandal-ridden Fifa after February 26 elections in Zurich.
Bahraini Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, Jordanian Prince Ali Al Hussein, Swiss Gianni Infantino and Frenchman Jerome Champagne are the other challengers for the task of cleaning up the world football body.
Highlight of the Sexwale manifesto is a call for the ban on sponsors’ names appearing on national team shirts to be scrapped, which could greatly boost the income of cash-strapped associations.
Manchester City midfielder Toure is favoured to win a record-extending fifth consecutive CAF Footballer of the Year title in the Nigerian capital Abuja.
Other stars shortlisted for the award are Gabon and Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ghana and Swansea City midfielder Andre ‘Dede’ Ayew.
Toure, 32, was voted BBC African Footballer of the Year last month and made the Ballon d’Or World Footballer of the Year and FIFPro World Team of the Year lists.
The line-up for the June 24 groups draw in Cairo reads like a who’s who of African football with only Equatorial Guinea and Benin of the current top 20 national teams failing to make the cut.
Assuming seeding is based on Fifa rankings, as was the case for two knockout rounds, one of the five mini-leagues could comprise Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Nigeria and Morocco.Advertisement
The other 16 survivors are Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Libya, Mali, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia.
AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS
Former champions South Africa are in serious danger of missing the 2017 tournament in Gabon after being held at home by Gambia and losing away to Mauritania.
Bafana Bafana – which means “the boys” – tackle Group M leaders Cameroon at home and away during March and only two victories are likely to keep them in contention for a place among the 16 finalists.
Nigeria, champions in 2013 and non-qualifiers two years later, play record seven-time title-holders Egypt twice in another highlight of the matchday 3 and 4 fixtures.
AFRICAN NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP
Rwanda host during January and February a unique international competition, reserved for footballers playing in their country of birth.
Title-holders Libya failed to survive the region-based qualifiers, but the other two former champions, DR Congo and Tunisia, will be in central Africa.
Morocco impressed in an unbeaten elimination campaign while Nigeria believe they can improve on a third-place finish in South Africa two years ago.
CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
TP Mazembe of DR Congo outplayed USM Alger of Algeria 4-1 on aggregate to win the 2015 final and history suggests they could go all the way again.
The club from mining city Lubumbashi won back-to-back titles in 1967 and 1968 and again in 2009 and 2010, and boast an all-star current line-up from DR Congo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Tanzania and Zambia.
Among former champions in the 55-club line-up are Al Ahly and Zamalek of Egypt, Club Africain and Etoile Sahel of Tunisia and Enyimba of Nigeria.
CAF CONFEDERATION CUP
Twice CAF champions Esperance of Tunisia stand out in a weak 51-club qualifying-rounds field for the African equivalent of the Europa League.
But the line up for the group stage could be dramatically strengthened depending on which eight clubs drop down to the Confederation Cup after the final Champions League qualifiers.
The Nigerian entrants are Nasarawa United and Akwa United, Ajax Cape Town and Wits carry the hopes of South Africa, and debutants Bandari represent Kenya.