Football by some margin is the most popular sport in Africa. The game was introduced to the continent by European immigrants over a century ago and since then has become an integral part of their culture. It’s a common sight in Africa to see a group kids, kicking around a make-shift soccer ball and enjoying the game.
Founded in the year 1957, The Confederation of African Football (CAF) is the largest of the continental football associations under FIFA. CAF consists of 54 full time members and 2 associate members, namely Zanzibar & Reunion Island.
While the continent has produced it’s fair share of World Class talents, the infrastructure for the sport is extremely poor apart from a few countries. The league system in most countries leave a lot of room for improvement but the overall action is mostly unpredictable and hence makes it a ideal haven for bettors. In this article we’ll go through some of the best football league’s in Africa and provide you with some betting tips on them.
What Defines a Top Football League?
Before listing out the top 5 football leagues from Africa, it’s imperative that you as readers understand the criterion’s which we have considered while listing the top leagues.
“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is a part of a tree” – Quote by Micheal Crichton.
Level of Competition
Basically we are looking for League’s which are similar in competitiveness to the English Premier League but at the same time produce qualify football.
Stadium & Supporters
The importance of the 12th man – Crowd Support, is often understated in football. I can point out numerous games in which the supporters have won the game from the stands. We are looking for league’s with good infrastructure and a faithful fan following.
TV Broadcast & Sponsors
If the League ticks all of the points mentioned above then the Sponsors and Broadcasting rights should come automatically. While African leagues do not have the reach like the La Liga or Premier League, some of the league’s have expanded their support to gulf countries.
CAF Champions League
The performance of the League in Continental competitions will play a big part in the final rankings. The competition which started in 1964 has produced 25 different winners from 18 Nations in that last 51 seasons.
Top Clubs in Africa 
Honorary Mentions – Top 5 Leagues in Africa
7th. Sudanese Football League
Governed by the Sudan Football Association, the Sudanese Premier League was founded in the year 1965. Al-Hilal Club were the first ever winners of the competition and has remained the most dominant club over the last 51 years. The Omdurman based club has won the league a record 26 times and are the current champions of the competition as well. Al-Hilal’s one and only rival in the league is another club based in the city of Omdurman, Al-Merrikh SC. Nicknamed the Red Devils, Al-Merrikh has won the league a total of 16 times, the last of which came in 2015.
The other winners of the league include Al-Mourada(2), Burri SC (1) and Hilal Alsahil SC (1) but none of them have won the league after the turn of the century. The top flight of the league consists of 18 teams and the top two clubs each season earn qualification to the CAF Champions League, while the 3rd placed team and domestic cup winner qualifies for the Confederations Cup. Sudanese clubs have failed to make an impact in Continental competitions not having won either of the two competitions.
Al-Hilal have been runners-up of the Champions League on two occasions (1987 & 1992) while Al-Merrikh has been the runner-up of the Confederations Cup on one occasion (2007). The reason as to why the Sudanese League ranked so low is the fact that we couldn’t get much details into the Sponsorship deals, Broadcasting rights, Attendance reports etc.
The Sudanese is said to be one of the richest in the continent but the lack of competitiveness within the league and the lack of information forces us to rank them so low.
6th. RD Congo ( Linafoot)
Founded in the year 1958, Linafoot is one of the most accomplished league’s in the whole of Africa. FC Saint-Eloi Lupopo, a club based in the city of Lubumbashi were the first ever winners of the league. Over the past 58 years, there has been a total of 10 winners. TP Mazambe is the most successful club with 15 league titles while AS Vita Club and DC Motema Pembe have 13 and 12 league titles to their names respectively.
The 2016 Linafoot will have 14 teams in the top flight with the top two teams qualifying for the CAF Champions League while the 3rd placed team along with the domestic cup winner qualifies for the Confederations Cup. Three clubs with the fewest points are relegated to the 2nd division. The country is only second to Egypt in terms of success in Continental competitions.
TP Mazambe are the second most successful team in the CAF Champions League having won the competition a total of 5 times, mostly recently in 2015. AS Vita Club are the only other club from RD Congo to have won the competition (1973). No clubs from RD Congo has won the Confederations Cup till date with TP Mazambe being a losing finalist on one occasion (2013).
Despite our best efforts we couldn’t find any information regarding the league’s sponsor, Broadcasting rights or Average attendance and hence the reason for them to be ranked so low.
Top 5 Football Leagues in Africa
5th. ABSA Premiership (South African Premier Division)
Popularly known as the PSL, the ABSA Premiership is arguably the most well managed football league in the continent. Founded in the year 1996, the Premiership consists of 16 teams in the top flight. The top two teams each season qualify for the CAF Champions League while the domestic cup winner (Nedbank Cup) and 3rd placed team in the league qualifies for the Confederations Cup. The lowest ranked team each season is directly relegated to the National First Division (2nd tier) while the 2nd club from bottom enters a play-off round with the 2nd and 3rd placed teams in the First Division.
Despite being just 20 years old, the league has produced as many as 6 winners till now. Almost each season, the title race and survival struggle is a close one. The 2010/11 season saw just two points separating the teams from 1st to 4th, in fact the title was awarded to Orlando Pirates courtesy of a better GD than Ajax Cape Town. The 2014/15 and 2015/16 has been anomaly compared to the other seasons with Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns emerging as comfortable winners. Nevertheless you can expect a close contest top to bottom in the ABSA Premiership more often than not.
Manning Rangers were the first ever winner of the competition and it remains their only league title till date. Mamelodi Sundowns have been the most dominant team with 7 league titles to their name. Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Supersport United have 4 league titles to their name. Manning Rangers along with Santos FC both of whom ply their trade in the 2016/17 National First Division have won the Premiership once.
Sponsors & Broadcasting Rights
The league is known after it’s Sponsors – ABSA who are a subsidiary of the Barclays Bank. Castle Lager were the title sponsors from 1996 to 2007 after which ABSA has taken over. The current deal runs through till the end of the 2016/17 season. Supersport who signed a 5 year deal worth 200€ million per season in 2012 are the main broadcast partner of the league. The ABSA Premiership has the highest revenue of any African League, receiving as much as 111€ million each season. The attendances are on the lower side with a league game on an average clocking in just around 7,000 attendees.
Orlando Pirates have been the most successful South African Club in Continental competitions. The have won the CAF Champions League on one occasion (1995) and were the runners-up in 2013. Mamelodi Sundowns are the only other SA club to have reached the finals of the competition in 2001. No clubs from SA have won the confederations cup with Orlando Pirates coming 2nd in 2015.
Despite being one of the best run football league’s in the globe we are forced to rank the ABSA Premiership low due to the fact that they are still a young league and their success in Continental competitions is minimal.
Update: – Mamelodi Sundowns became the 2nd South African club to win the CAF Champions League beating Egyptian unit Zamalek 3-1 on aggregate in this year’s competition(2016).
Betting Tips – ABSA Premiership
- Under 2.5 Goals
- No Home Advantage
- 0-0 is normal
- League’s top scorer won’t be from the title winning team
4th. Tie – Nigeria Professional Football League
Popularly known as the Nigerian Premier League, Nigeria’s top flight was established in the year 1972 with just six teams. Over the last four decades, the league has grown in stature is one of the most popular league’s in Africa. The 2016 season had 20 teams in the top flight. The top two teams each season qualify for the CAF Champions League while the 3rd placed team and cup winner qualify for the confederations cup. The four lowest ranked teams are relegated to the Nigeria National League each season.
In it’s 45 year history, the league has produced as many 18 winners. Enugu Rangers who are current champions are the most successful club in the league’s history along with Enyimba International FC (7 League titles). Shooting stars who last won the title in 1998 has 5 league titles to their name while Heartland who last won the title in 1993 has 4 league titles to their name. Kano Pillars have been one of the strongest teams since the turn of the decade with three consecutive title wins from 2012 to 2014. Mighty Jets FC who are currently in the 2nd tier won the first ever title back in 1972.
The Nigerian Premier League is one of the most competitive league’s in the continent. The title race is almost always a close one, the 2016 season saw just three points separating the top 2. It’s almost a similar story each season with the 2013 season being the best example, Kano Pillars with 63 points won the title but the gap between 1st to 4th was just three points.
CAF Success & Sponsorship Details
Nigerian clubs have done reasonably well in Continental competitions. Enyimba International are the only Nigerian club to have won the CAF Champions League, the club based in the city of Aba has won the competition twice in 2003 & 2004. Nigerian clubs have finished as runners-up in the competition on 5 five occasions – Shooting Stars (1984 & 1996), Heartland (1988 & 2009) and Enugu Rangers (1975). No Nigerian club has won the Confederations cup with Dolphins the only club to have reached the final (2005).
2016 season played out with no sponsors as their deal with Globacom Limited came to an end in 2015. The league has secured a new sponsor in Star Lager Beer ahead of the 2017 season, the 5 year deal will run until the end of the 2021 season. Nigerian Premier League has secured a 4 year Broadcasting deal worth 30€ million which run up till the 2019 season. The average attendance for a NPFL game ranges between 8,000 & 10,000.
Betting Tips – NPFL
- Away Wins are highly Unlikey 
- Draws are not popular
- Over 1.5 goals
4th. Tie – Moroccan Championship
Simply known as the Botola, Morocco’s premier football division was established in the year 1956 and were revamped to the current format in 1992. Botola is known by a number of names including Botola Pro 1, Botola Ittisalat and the Moroccan Premier League (MPL). The current format consists of 16 teams in the top flight and the top two teams each season qualify for the CAF Champions League. 3rd placed team along with the domestic cup winner qualifies for the Confederations Cup. The three teams who finish the season at the bottom of the table are relegated to the Botola Pro 2.
The league has produced as many as 19 winners over the last 60 seasons. Wydad Casablanca were the first ever Botola Champions (1956/57), the club based in Casablanca are the most successful club in the competition’s history with 13 league titles. AS-Far, a club based in Rabat has 13 league titles to their name while Raja Casablanca has 11 league titles to their name. Fath Union Sport are the current holders of the Moroccan Championship after edging out Wydad Casablanca by just two points last season (2015/16).
Botola is a highly competitive league which has seen four different champions over the last 6 seasons. The Casablanca Clubs and the clubs from Rabat do remain in contention more often than not but it’s not surprise to see someone else put in a challenge or even win it. Moroccan Clubs have been highly successful in Continental competitions. The Botola clubs have won the CAF Champions League on 5 occasions and the Confederations Cup on 3 occasions.
CAF Success & Sponsorship Details
Raja Casablanca are the most successful continental club from Morocco with their 3 Champions League wins. Wydad Casablanca and FAR Rabat have one Champions League title to their name. It should be noted that none of the Moroccan clubs have won the Champions League since the turn of the century. Wydad came close in 2011 but had to settle for 2nd place. Morocco’s 3 Confederations Cup title have come through three different clubs namely, FAR Rabat (2005), FUS Rabat (2010) & MAS Fez (2011)
The Botola Pro 1 is also known as the Botola Maroc Telecom after it’s Sponsors Maroc Telecom, a telecommunication company based in Morocco. Maroc have been sponsoring the league since 2000 and their current deal mounts to about 1.4€ million per year. Botola is the most watched football league in Africa and have secured a 11€ million per year deal by selling their Broadcasting rights. The Stadium’s are mostly filled and the average league attendance comes around 25,000.
Betting Tips – Botola Pro 1
- Relegation Battles should be kept an eye on
- Both Teams to Score (BTS) more often than not
- Over 2.5 Goals when close Rivals meet
- Points margin from top to bottom is very low
3rd. Algerian Ligue Professionnelle 1
Formed shortly after Algeria’s independence in 1962, the Algerian Ligue Professionnelle 1, simply known as Ligue 1 is one of the most popular football leagues in Africa. The league was revamped to it’s current format in 2010 and has 16 teams in the top flight. The two clubs who find themselves at the top of the table and the end of season qualifies for the CAF Champions League.3rd placed team along with the Algerian cup winner qualifies for the Confederations Cup. Three clubs with the lowest points are relegated to the 2nd tier (Ligue 2).
There has been as many as 15 Ligue 1 champions over the past 54 seasons. USM Alger were the first ever Ligue 1 champions winning the 1962-63 season, the club based in the city of Algier are one of the most successful clubs in this competition with 7 titles and are the current champions as well (2015/16). JS Kabyile who have not won a league title since the 2007/08 are the most successful team in the competition with 14 league titles, coming mostly in the 70’s & 80’s. MC Alger and ES Setif are the other two marquee clubs in the league both of whom have 7 league titles to their name.
The 2011/12 Ligue 1 season saw the top 3 clubs being separated by single point and the team with the better head to head record crowned the Champions. The Ligue 1 is notorious for such close calls, thus making it the most competitive league in Africa. Last season saw USM Alger ending up as comfortable winners finishing 10 points ahead of 2nd placed JS Saoura however the teams from 3rd to 8th were separated by just 3 points.
CAF Success & Sponsorship Details
Algerian clubs have tasted a good amount of success in the CAF Champions League with 5 titles. JS Kabyile along with ES Setif have two titles to their names while MC Alger has won the title in 1976. It should noted that apart from ES Setif in 2014 no other Algerian club has won the competition in the 21st century. Algerians are yet to win the Confederations Cup with ES Setif the only club to come close with a runner-up finish in 2009.
Algerian First Division is also known as the Ligue Professionnelle 1 Mobilis, named after their Sponsors Mobilis, a telecommunications company based in Algeria. The current 3 year sponsorship deal will run through until the end of the 2016/17 season. The Ligue 1 is aired within the country and abroad by a number of broadcasters including beIN Sports Arabia and Algerie 3. The average attendance per game mounts to around 12,000.
Betting Tips – Algerian Ligue Professionnelle 1
- Over 2.5 Goals – When teams in the bottom quarter are in the fray
- Under 2.5 Goals – 1-1 & 2-0 are unusually popular
- Relegation & Scramble and Continental Qualification are close to call
- The Champion doesn’t necessarily get off to a good start
2nd. Egyptian Premier League
Coming in at the runners-up position is one of the oldest professional football leagues in the continent – The Egyptian Premier League. Founded in the year 1948, the Egyptian Premier League consists of 18 teams in the top flight. Each team plays a total of 34 games facing every other club in the league twice, home and away. Team with most points at the end of the season wins the title and qualifies for the CAF Champions League along with the 2nd placed team, 3rd placed team and domestic cup winner qualifies for the Confederations Cup. The three teams who finish bottom of the table are relegated to the 2nd tier.
Dominance of Al-Ahly
Only 2 clubs, namely Al Ahly and Zamalek have featured in all the 57 completed seasons till date. Al Ahly, a club based in Cairo were the first ever champions of the Egyptian Premier League winning the 1948/49 season. Nicknamed the Red Devils, Al Ahly are the most successful team in the Egypt with 38 league titles and are the current holders of the title. Zamalek SC, a club based in Giza have been the only club which has been able to put in a decent challenge against Al Ahly and have 12 league titles to their name, last of which came in the 2014/15 season.
Apart from the above mentioned two clubs Ismaily SC (3), Tersana (1), Ghazl El Mahalla (1), El Olympi (1) and El Mokawloon (1) are the only other clubs to have won the Egyptian Championship. It’s safe to say that the Egyptian Premier League is one of the least competitive leagues in Africa as far as the title race is considered but the European spots and relegation battles are almost always closely fought. The Egyptian Premier League has had it’s fair share of problems with 2012 Port Said Stadium Riot  being the most recent one which resulted in the cancellation of the 2011/12 and 2012/13 season.
CAF Success & Sponsorship Details
Egyptian clubs have been the most dominant club in African competitions. Al Ahly themselves have won 8 CAF Champions League titles and have been the runners-up on five occasions. Zamalek have 5 Champions League titles to their name while Ismaily has won the title once back in 1969. Al Ahly are the only Egyptian club to have won the Confederations Cup (2014).
The league is popularly known as the Presentation Egyptian Premier League after it’s sponsors Presentation Sports, an advertising agency in Egypt. The Egyptian Premier League is the second richest league in Africa after the ABSA Premiership. The EPL generates an annual revenue of 95.4€ million and the annual revenue per club amounts to 4.7€ million.
Betting Tips – Egyptian Premier League
- The League Top Scorer hasn’t come from Al Ahly Since 2008/09
- Predicating the winner ain’t that hard and Zamalek can bring you money
- Over 2.5 Goals – Games involving the top 4 clubs
- 1-1 is really popular
1st. Tunisia ( Tunisian Ligue Professionnelle 1)
The Tunisian Ligue Professionnelle-1 also known as the CLP-1 or Championnat de La Ligue Professionnelle-1 is one of the oldest Football Leagues in Africa. Founded in the year 1921, the league is notorious for having a different format almost every season.Current format has 16 teams in the top flight divided into two groups of 8 teams each. Top 3 teams from each group are put together into a final Championship Group consisting of 6 teams. The team with the most number of points win the Championship and qualifies for the Champions League along with the 2nd placed team.
The 3rd placed team in the Championship Group and the Tunisian cup winner qualify for the Confederations Cup. Teams ranked from 4th to 7th in the original groups are put together in a single group of 8 teams called the Relegation Group. The 7th & 8th placed teams in the relegation group are eliminated along with the two bottom placed teams in the original groups.
There has been as many as 18 winners over the last 90 completed seasons. Racing Club de Tunis were the first ever CLP-1 champion winning the 1921/22 season. Etoile Sportive du Sahel, a club based in the city of Sousse are the current league champions (2015/16). Esperance Sportive de Tunis based in the city of Tunis have been the most dominant team in Tunisian football. The club has notched up 26 league titles in total and have been especially dominant over the last three decades. Club African are the second most successful club with 13 league title while Etoile Sportive and Sportif Sfaxien have 10 and 8 league titles to their name respectively.
The league is fairly competitive however it’s difficult call with the constant changes in format. The last four seasons have had four different winners, the last time the league was played in the current format, Sfaxien went onto win the title after a gap of 8 seasons. The Tunisian is very well followed both domestically and internationally and the average stadium attendance varies between 9,000 & 10,000.
Tunisian clubs are arguably the greatest performers in continental competitions with equally impressive records in both the Champions League & the Confederations Cup. The Tunisian clubs have won the Champions League on 4 occasions and been the runners-up on 7 occasions. Esperance have won the competition twice while Club Africain, and Etoile du Sahel have won once. Tunisia are the most successful nation in the Confederations Cup with 5 Wins and 3 runners-up finishes. Sfaxien has three titles to their name while Etoile du Sahel has two to their name.
Betting Tips – Tunisian Ligue Professionnelle-1
- 0-0 is popular but so is 1-1
- A Continental superpower and the best bet in Confederations Cup
- The Big Four are strong
- Over 3.5 Goals – Big Four vs Relegation Contenders
 Footballdatabase.com, Top Football Clubs in Africa
 Theguardian.com, Tough getting away wins in Nigerian Premier League
 en.wikipedia.org, Port Said Stadium Riot