AFCON The history of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON)

The history of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON)

The first edition of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) took place in 1957 in Sudan, with only three participating countries: Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.

The absence of the fourth team registered, South Africa, due to its apartheid policies, marks from the start the link between football and politics on the continent. Egypt won this first edition, laying the foundations for a competition which would become the pinnacle of African football.

Over the years, the AFCON has expanded, reflecting the political evolution of Africa, notably with decolonization which saw an increasing number of African nations gaining independence and joining the competition. In 1962, the number of participants increased to four, then continued to rise to 24 teams in 2019, a sign of the growing popularity of football and the competition itself on the continent.

The competition has also been the scene of historic moments in football, with teams and players who have become legendary. Nations like Egypt, Cameroon and Nigeria stood out for their performances, while players such as Roger Milla, Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba and Mohamed Salah became icons, not only in their respective countries but worldwide.

But the AFCON is more than just a football tournament. It has become a vector of unity and national pride, a moment when differences are put aside to celebrate the continent in its diversity and its passion for football. It has also been a platform to challenge stereotypes and show the world the talent and competitiveness of African football.

However, the tournament is not without its challenges. Questions of organization, financing and infrastructure have often been obstacles, not to mention criticism regarding the competition schedule, which takes place in January, in conflict with the schedule of European leagues where many African footballers play. Despite these challenges, the AFCON continues to thrive and capture the imagination of millions of fans around the world.

The history of the AFCON is rich and complex, reflecting the triumphs and challenges of African football. It testifies to the ability of sport to unite people, inspire nations and overcome differences, making the African Cup of Nations much more than a tournament, but a true mirror of the African soul.

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