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Africa Cup of Nations: 10 Interesting Facts Fans Should Know


The Africa Cup of Nations, or AFCON, is the biggest football tournament in African football. It happens every two years and showcases the best African national football teams. The event is organized under the Confederation of African Football (CAF) since its first edition in 1957. It’s a colorful tournament as fans from different countries support their favorite players and teams, and sometimes demonstrate their cultural beliefs. Keep reading to find out more.

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Oldest Football Tournament in Africa

spotcovery-Algeria celebrates the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations
Algeria celebrates the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-4.0

The Africa Cup of Nations was first played in 1957. It was an annual event until 1968, when it became a biennial event and then in 2013, it was moved to an odd number of years to avoid interruptions from the FIFA World Cup. 

Change of Name

When the tournament began, it was the Africa Nations Cup. The name stuck until 1968 when it changed to the current name to demonstrate the unity of all the participating countries.

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Tournament Expansion

When AFCON began, only three countries participated in the event: Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia. Interestingly, there ought to have been four teams but South Africa refused to have a multiracial team and were banned. 

In 1968, eight countries played in the event. By 1992, there were 12 nations which increased to 16 in 1996. In 2019, CAF decided to restructure the competition and increase the capacity to 24 nations.

Egypt Is the Most Successful Country

Egypt has won the most number of Africa Cup of Nations titles with seven. They won their first in 1957 and then in 1959. Their next came in 1968 and 1998 and after that, they went on a 20-year drought before they went on eight years without a trophy. In 2006, the Pharaohs became African champions again and won it back-to-back in 2008 and 2010.

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18 Different Tournament Hosts

18 countries have hosted the Africa Cup of Nations. These countries have had the chance to improve their sports infrastructure, share their culture and increase their visibility. While it’s expensive to host a tournament, it benefits the country’s tourism sector.

Legendary Players in AFCON

Africa Cup of Nations: 10 Interesting Facts Fans Should Know
Egyptian player Mo Salah. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-4.0

Every country sends their best players to the Africa Cup of Nations. Over the years, football fans have seen the best talents perform on the biggest stage and some made a name for themselves. Some of the iconic footballers to play in the tournament include Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah. 

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Eto’o Is the Top Scorer

Former Cameroon player Samuel Eto’o is the Africa Cup of Nations’ top scorer with 18 goals. He played 29 games in the event and participated in the event six times. Ivory Coast player Laurent Pokou is the second-highest scorer with 14, Rashid Yekini with 13, and Hassan El Shazly with 12. 

Didier Drogba, Hossam Hassan and Patrick Mboma are tied on 11 goals.

El Hadary Is the Oldest Goalkeeper to Play in the Event

Former Egyptian player Essam El Hadary became the oldest player in the tournament in 2017. At the time, he was 44 years old and 21 days old. El Hadary replaced Ahmed El-Shenawy in the team’s first game against Mali.

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Players Who Have Played Most Tournaments

Cameroonian player Rigobert Song and Egyptian Ahmed Hassan played in eight finals, the most of any other player in the history of the competition. They participated in the event between 1996 and 2010. Only Ghana’s Andre Ayew comes close to tying this record. 

AFCON Winning Coaches

French coach Herve Renard is the only one to have won the tournament with two different countries. In 2012, he led Zambia to the AFCON title and, in 2015, won it with Ivory Coast. 

Egyptian coach Hassan Shehata and Ghanaian tactician Charles Gyamfi are the only coaches to have won the tournament thrice. Shehata is the only one to have won three successive titles.

As the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations draws closer, we hope these facts will help you learn more about the event. 

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