The history of African Cup of Nations

By Michael Kachitsa

The biennual African Cup of Nations tournament has been played since 1957 and is thereby older than the corresponding European championship.

In February 1957, beneath the heat of the Nubian Desert in Sudan, few could have predicted the expansion of the African Cup of Nations.

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There the Confederation of African Football was formed and the organisation planned the first tournament for the following year in Khartoum.

However, as the start date drew near, there were a few hurdles to overcome, such as the exclusion of South Africa after the apartheid regime failed to approve a multi-racial team.

So with South Africa out, the tournment came down to a play-off between just three teams – Egypt, hosts Sudan and Ethiopia.

AFCON 2019: Algeria crowned Africa Cup of Nations champion after ...
AFCON 2019: Algeria crowned Africa Cup of Nations champion

Few Africans today would have heard of the Algerian Lalmas, Ghanaian dribbling wizard Osei Kofi or Ethiopian captain Italo Vassalo – they were among a host of legends to play in the Nations Cup tournaments of the 1960s.

Since the early days, North Africa – and Ghana in particular – has maintained its reputation, while the other pioneers Ethiopia and Sudan have deteriorated.

In the space of 30 years there has been an amazing shift of power – a classic between Ethiopia and Sudan (both former champions) in the 1960s is now overshadowed by a match between Cameroon against Nigeria.