Why Sundowns or Pirates might go to the 2020-21 Champions League‚ even if Chiefs win the league
Mamelodi Sundowns may re-enter the 2020-21 Caf Champions League if the current Absa Premiership season runs past the Confederation of African Football's (Caf) deadline for teams to qualify for the next continental club showpiece.
Orlando Pirates‚ who exited in the first round in the still incomplete 2019-20 edition‚ may also have a free entry‚ based on Caf's permutations.
Kaizer Chiefs lead the Premiership by four points from second-placed defending champions Sundowns‚ as the Premier Soccer League (PSL) and SA Football Association (Safa) seek a way for professional football to return from the suspension imposed on March 16 in response to Covid-19.
The PSL and Safa might have a tough choice‚ with Caf leaving it to individual federations should countries' seasons go past the qualification deadline‚ whether to enrol Chiefs‚ if they are still league leaders by then‚ or Sundowns and Pirates.
The PSL appears set for a return in the first week of August‚ with the league aiming to complete the season by August 31.
Caf acting secretary general Abdelmounaïm Bah told an online press conference of the SA Football Journalists Association that the continental body's inter-club committee will recommend the deadline dates for teams to qualify for the Champions League and Confederation Cup next week.
"The inter-clubs committee will discuss the deadlines next week‚ and also the host country for the [2019-20] Champions League final‚ and the dates of the final four for the current Champions League and Confederation Cup‚" Bah said.
The 2019-20 Champions League was postponed in March‚ and Caf will appoint a single venue for the semifinals between Raja Casablanca and Zamalek‚ and Wydad Casablanca and Al-Ahly.
If a country's league is extended due to the coronavirus pandemic‚ and misses the Caf deadline to qualify for the 2020-21 Champions League and Confed‚ individual federations will have options on who to enter.
"It has been decided by the exco [Caf executive committee] that if a country has cancelled its league but has promulgated a result‚ we will consider that finished and then those best teams can engage in the inter-clubs‚" Bah said.
"For the rest‚ where they have put it on hold and don't know when they will resume‚ or have resumed and will finish very late‚ what we are proposing is to leave it to the federations to propose to us the clubs who will compete.
"For instance‚ they can engage the same team as last year. At the end we will let each federation choose if they want to promulgate the current ranking‚ and they propose us their best team‚ or if they want to propose the team from last year."
Sundowns‚ the 2016 winners of the Champions League‚ exited in the quarterfinals of the 2019-20 event to Al Ahly. Orlando Pirates‚ the 2013 finalists‚ exited in the 2019-20 opening round to Zambia's Green Eagles.
Chiefs last participated in the 2014 and 2015 Champions League.