History will be created on Tuesday when the first official midweek matches in the Champions League and Confederation Cup are staged by CAF.
Games in both competitions are also scheduled for Wednesday as the African football body reacts to pressure from some national associations wanting more weekends reserved for domestic fare. The honour of staging the first official midweek match falls to Zambian club Zesco United, who host Stade Malien of Mali Tuesday at 1300 GMT (1500 local time) in Copperbelt city Ndola.
Since the African Cup of Champions Clubs — forerunner to the Champions League — was launched in 1964, matches have always been scheduled for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Only when unforeseen circumstances like bad weather or the late arrival of a team or match officials occurred were CAF club matches played during the week.
Apart from the last 16 second legs in both competitions this week, return matches in the Confederation Cup play-offs during May are also scheduled for Tuesdays and Wednesdays. So are matchdays 2, 4 and 6 between June and August in the group phases of the Champions League and Confederation Cup. The move to midweek club fixtures comes several years after African national teams began playing during the week. World Cup, Africa Cup of Nations, African Nations Championship and club fixtures have been taking up an ever increasing number of weekends each year.
“We are reacting to a request from some national associations, who want more weekends free for domestic competitions,” a CAF spokesman said. Other continents have traditionally used midweek dates. In Europe, only the UEFA Champions League final is played at the weekend. Limited flight options in Africa and expensive tickets make travel a challenge for CAF clubs, who often take unusual, time consuming routes to cut costs. When South African club Orlando Pirates travel to North Africa they regularly do so via Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, a much longer but cheaper option. Instead of flying from Algeria to Egypt for a Confederation Cup game Tuesday, Algerian club CS Constantine travelled via Turkey. The big test of the change to midweek fixtures will come at the turnstiles with power costs forcing some clubs into afternoon kick-offs when many supporters are at work. However, clubs in fixture-intense countries like Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa and Tunisia are likely to welcome the change.