Kicking a football is just a sport to some people, but to others it is much more important. When Africa's top teams do battle on the field, they are also uniting the continent. The Africa Cup of Nations is a biennial football tournament that started with three participating nations and grew into a competition involving 16 teams. The continental tournament was born after the formation of a football governing body for Africa, and each decade has seen some star teams produce impressive statistics.
Origin of the Africa Cup of Nations
The inaugural Africa Cup of Nations took place in Sudan in 1957 to celebrate the official launch of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), the governing body of football in the region. The founding members are Egypt, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Sudan.
The first Africa Cup of Nations
Only three of the founding members participated in the first Africa Cup of Nations tournament. South Africa suffered exclusion when it failed to put forward a multi-racial team as part of its apartheid regime. The playoff was between the remaining three teams, so there were only two matches, with Ethiopia given a pass straight to the final. Egypt beat Sudan 2-1 in their semi-final round. Striker Mohamed Diab Al-Attar scored all four goals in Egypt's 4-0 triumph over Ethiopia, making his team the first champion.
African independence and the Cup of Nations
The number of countries in Africa gaining independence from European nations increased rapidly in the 1960s. The competing teams in the Africa Cup of Nations grew to six, eight, 12, and finally, 16. This made it necessary to introduce qualifying rounds in 1962.
Summary of the Africa Cup of Nations
Both Egypt and Ghana share the impressive accolade of winning the tournament on their first two appearances. Egypt won in 1957 and 1959, and Ghana in 1963 and 1965.
1960s Africa Cup of Nations
Ghana's Osei Kofi was one of the stars of the 1960s. In addition to scoring goals for his national team, the dribbling genius played for the Asante Kotoko Sporting Club, a professional football club ranked statistically as the African club of the 20th century.
1970s Africa Cup of Nations
The 1970s was a good decade for Central African nations. The Republic of Congo won in 1972. The Democratic Republic of Congo was also triumphant under various country names: Congo-Kinshasa in 1968 and Zaire in 1974.
1980s, 1990s, and 2000s Africa Cup of Nations
The success passed to West Africa in the 1980s and 1990s, but other parts of the continent still produced top-class players. Hassan Shehata won the Egyptian Merit of Sport as a player in 1980 and went on to coach Egypt to three Africa Cup of Nations wins in 2006, 2008, and 2010. Lakhdar Belloumi from Algeria invented the blind pass and is widely considered one of the best players in African football. He was the top scorer in the 1988 Africa Cup of Nations, along with Gamal Abdelhamid of Egypt, Roger Milla of Cameroon, and Abdoulaye Traore of the Ivory Coast.
The modern Africa Cup of Nations
The Africa Cup of Nations takes place in odd numbered years so that it does not clash with the FIFA World Cup. As of 2014, the membership of the CAF stands at 54 associations. From those associations, 16 nations participate in the Africa Cup. The nations are drawn into four groups each consisting of four teams. The teams at the top of each group advance to a knockout stage.
Statistics for the Africa Cup of Nations
As of 2014, statistics for the Africa Cup of Nations show that Egypt maintains its reputation as top team. However, two of the tournament's other pioneers, Ethiopia and Sudan, have not continued their early success.
- Most successful nation: Egypt with seven victories, including two as the United Arab Republic.
- Top goal scorer: Samuel Eto'o of Cameroon with 18 goals.
- Most tournaments hosted: Egypt and Ghana with four competitions each.
- Most tournament appearances: Egypt with 22 appearances.
The fourth founding member, South Africa, hosted the 20th competition in 1996 after a long ban. This was also South Africa's first victory in the tournament.
How to buy football merchandise from the Africa Cup of Nations on eBay
If you are a fan of international football, you can find merchandise from the Africa Cup of Nations and the teams that participate in the tournament by searching the inventory on eBay. Use the search field on any page to locate football books, football shoes, or sporting memorabilia. Simply enter a term, such as "football jerseys", and view the product details. The Africa Cup of Nations unites a continent and introduces the worldwide football audience to an exciting array of players.