Johannesburg — SOUTH Africa's Absa Premiership is not only the most lucrative league in the continent but will be the most represented in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Egypt in June/July.
African fans have heaped praise on the league for its competitiveness and helping their respective countries qualify for the continent's prime football tournament.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is the most grateful after a record seven teams, including South Africa, qualified.
Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Madagascar, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe will also represent the regional bloc. Clever Chisamba from Zimbabwe, who lives in Sunninghill, north
of Johannesburg, said Zimbabwe's Warriors owed its qualification to the Absa Premiership.
"The bulk of our national team players ply their trade here in the South African league. Credit must go to the Absa Premiership," he said.
Zimbabwe sealed qualification with a 2-0 victory over Congo courtesy of goals by Khama Billiat (Kaizer Chiefs) and Knowledge Musona (formerly Chiefs).
Other stars in the team include Ovidy Karuru (AmaZulu), Butholezwe Ncube and Talent Chawapiwa (both AmaZulu), Terrence Dzvukamanja (Bidvest Wits), Ronald Pfumbidzai (Bloemfontein Celtic), Divine Lunga, Danny Phiri and Knox Mutizwa (all Golden
Arrows), Teenage Hadebe (Chiefs), Marshall Munetsi and Kudakwashe Mahachi (both Orlando Pirates), George Chigova (Polokwane City) and Evans Rusike (SuperSport United).
DRC's Franco Ipupa,
who lives in Rosebank, hailed the presence of many SADC teams at AFCON.
"It has been possible because of South Africa's Premiership. While most of DRC's players are locally and France based, we have some in the Absa Premiership," Ipupa said.
Namibian Helalia Herunga who lives in Hyde Park, Johannesburg concurred.
"I can't wait to watch our national team in Egypt. Our qualification was possible because of the bulk of our players based in South Africa," he said.
Tanzania's Samuel Nyambui said, "We made it to the Afcon because South Africa's competitive league absorbs players from SADC member states. Thank you South Africa."
Tanzanians Abdi Banda (Baroka) and Eliud Ambokile (Black Leopards) ply their trade in South Africa.
Other South African-based players set to feature in the AFCON for their SADC teams include DRC's Jean Munganga (Black Leopards), Madagascar's Arohasina Andrianarimanana (Chiefs) whilst Namibia boasts six players comprising Gebhardt Ananias (Baroka), Chris Katjiukua (Leopards), Maximilian Mbaeva (Golden Arrows), Denzil Haoseb (Highlands Park) and Peter Shalulile (both Highlands Park) and Virgil Vries (Chiefs).
AFCON representatives from non-SADC nations include Benin's Christophe Aïfimi (Leopards), Burundi's Frédéric Nsabiyumva and Guinea's Bangali Keïta (both Chippa United), Ghana's Nana Akosah-Bempah (Cape Town City), Razak Brimah (Mamelodi Sundowns), Richard Ofori (Maritzburg United), Mohammed Anas (Polokwane) and Richard Boateng (SuperSport United).
Others are Kenya's Brian Onyango (Maritzburg) while Ivory Coast has Kouassi Kouadja (Cape Town City) and Badra Ali Sangaré (Free State Stars).
Nigeria has James Okwuosa (Chippa) and Daniel Akpeyi (Chiefs) while Uganda supplied the likes of Martin Kizza (Free State Stars), Denis Onyango (Sundowns) and Allan Kateregga (Maritzburg).