AFCON: A brief history of Africa’s premier football tournament

The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), also known as the Coupe d’Afrique des Nations, is the premier international football tournament in Africa. It has a rich history dating back to its inception in 1957. Here’s a brief overview of AFCON’s history:

Inaugural Tournament (1957):

In 1957, the inaugural Africa Cup of Nations took place in Sudan, marking the dawn of a prestigious football competition. Organized by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), this historic event saw the participation of just three teams: Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. Amid fierce competition, Egypt emerged as the first-ever champions of AFCON, etching their name in the tournament’s history books.

Expansion of Participation (1960s):

The tournament gained significant popularity during the 1960s as more African nations began to participate. It was during this era of burgeoning interest that Ghana, a nation that had gained its independence in 1957, made history by becoming the first host nation outside of North Africa to clinch victory in the tournament in 1963.

This remarkable achievement not only underscored Ghana’s football prowess but also marked a turning point in the tournament’s history, solidifying its status as a prominent sporting event on the African continent.

Becoming Biennial (1968):

AFCON initially had irregular intervals, but in 1968, it became a biennial event, held every two years.

Expanded Field (1980s):

In 1980, a significant expansion occurred as the number of participating teams in the Africa Cup of Nations grew to eight. This expansion marked a pivotal moment, granting more African nations the opportunity to compete on the grand stage of AFCON, effectively showcasing the abundant football talent that the continent had to offer.

Notable Winners:

Throughout its history, AFCON has been won by various African football powerhouses, including Egypt, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, and Ivory Coast.

Recent Expansions:

The year 1996 witnessed a notable development as the Africa Cup of Nations expanded further, accommodating a total of 16 teams in the competition. Additionally, in 2013, AFCON underwent a schedule adjustment, shifting from odd to even years, strategically avoiding any overlaps with the FIFA World Cup, ensuring that both tournaments could be celebrated independently and garner global attention.

Host Nations:

East African leaders are celebrating the joint bid by Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda to host the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

This marks a historic moment as it will be the first time that the premier sporting event in Africa will be jointly hosted by three nations, following the examples of Ghana/Nigeria in 2000 and Equatorial Guinea/Gabon in 2012.

The move has garnered strong support from former officials of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA), highlighting the strength of the East Africa Pamoja Bid.

Minister of Sports in Tanzania, Damas Ndumbaro Ndumbaro, shared that the sports ministries of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda have worked diligently to secure this bid.

They have presented their comprehensive plans to CAF, outlining their commitment to upgrading sports infrastructure in preparation for the 2027 AFCON.

Renaming and Rescheduling:

In 2019, the tournament underwent a rescheduling, moving from even years to odd years to prevent scheduling conflicts with the FIFA World Cup.

Then, in 2021, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) officially rebranded the competition as the “Total Africa Cup of Nations” (AFCON), marking a significant partnership with Total, a multinational energy company, which was reflected in the tournament’s new name.

AFCON has grown to become one of the most prestigious football tournaments in the world, showcasing the immense talent and passion for the sport in Africa.  Notably, the CECAFA region had not hosted the Africa Cup of Nations since Ethiopia in 1976.

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