The Africa Cup of Nations is the continent’s biggest extravaganza. It is a soccer competition usually held every two years that sees participants battle for prize money and bragging rights. Since the inaugural edition, a lot has happened. From Cameroon’s Rigobert Song making the most appearances in the competition to Ghana losing the most finals, spectators have seen it all. With yet another edition set for 2024, here are some amazing Africa Cup of Nations facts to get you in the mood.
1. Gambia’s Soccer Team Players Fell Unconscious While Travelling to Ivory Coast
In a recent incident, members of Gambia’s national soccer team fell unconscious after the plane’s oxygen system failed. The players and staff were headed to Ivory Coast, the host country of the latest edition when they suddenly started having difficulties breathing. Fortunately, they were able to turn around, and no casualties were reported.
2. Zambia’s National Team Beat All Odds to Reach the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations Finals
1993 was a sad day for Zambia and the soccer fraternity at large. While the national team’s players were traveling to Senegal for a World Cup Qualifier, their plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean and killed everyone on board.
Less than a year later, the team had rebuilt with new players and staff, participated in the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations tournament, and reached the finals. Even though they lost to Nigeria 2-1, they showed extreme resilience, justifying their nickname, “Chipolopolo,” which translates to “the copper bullets.”
3. Its First Edition Had Only Three Teams
In the latest edition, the Africa Cup of Nations tournament has 24 participating teams. However, it hasn’t always been like that; the first edition held in Sudan in 1957 had only three teams. Initially, there were four teams: the hosts Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Africa. All was going well, and South Africa was scheduled to play Ethiopia. Unfortunately, the former was disqualified because they insisted on selecting white players only as part of the apartheid rule.
4. Morocco Withdrew from Hosting the 2015 Edition Over Ebola Fears
2015 saw Africa, especially the central, western, and northern parts, gripped with fears of the growing Ebola epidemic. Authorities from different countries laid out strict measures to curb the menace. Morocco was scheduled to host the year’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
However, they sought to postpone it over fears of widespread deadly disease. The Confederation of African Football declined their request, so Morocco pulled out. Five other countries also turned down the chance to host the competition. It was eventually held in Equatorial Guinea.
5. Egypt is the Most Successful Country in the History of the African Cup of Nations
Egypt is the most successful country in the African Cup of Nations history. The team has won the competition seven times, including the inaugural edition held in 1957. Subsequent triumphs came in 1959, 1986,1998,2006,2008, and 2010. Two of those victories came in their own backyard.
6. The Tournament Is Held in Odd-Numbered Years to Avoid Interfering with the World Cup
After the first edition, the African Cup of Nations Was Held every two years until 1965 – the next edition was held in 1968, an even-numbered year. The format continued until 2013, when it was decided that the tournament should be moved to odd-numbered years to avoid interfering with the World Cup.
7. The COVID-19 Pandemic Affected the African Cup of Nations Calendar, Again
At the time of writing, the Africa Cup of Nations is ongoing in Ivory Cost/Cote d’Ivoire. Even though it is dubbed the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, the tournament is in January 2024, bringing about further confusion. Well, after switching to odd-numbered years in 2013, the competition was supposed to be held in 2021, but it didn’t, thanks to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The edition was eventually held in 2022, meaning the one that was supposed to be hosted in 2023 was pushed to 2024.
8. The Number of Participating Countries Has Gradually Increased Over the Years
Since the first edition was held in 1957, the number of participating countries in the African Cup of Nations has gradually increased. Initially, there were four teams, then it grew to four in 1962, six in 1963, eight in 1968, 12 in 1992, 16 in 1996, and 24 in 2019.
9. Cameroon Players Wore Sleeveless Kits to the 2002 and 2004 Competitions
If you love soccer and would like to explore different diversities, especially on dressing codes, watch African teams. Apart from the drums and dances, they always arrive with varying styles at every major tournament. To put this into perspective, the Cameroon national team wore sleeveless kits to the 2002 and 2004 editions of the Africa Cup of Nations. They wanted to take the same to the 2002 World Cup but were stopped by FIFA; there was nowhere to place the official tournament branding.
10. The 2027 Edition Will Be Held in the East African Countries
For some reason, none of the East African countries (Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania) has ever hosted the African Cup of Nations tournament. With the number of participating teams increased to 24 in 2019, the Confederation of African Football seeks to include more “neglected” countries both as hosts and participants. The East African Countries will host the next Edition of the competition after Morocco.
11. Africa Cup of Nations Prize Money Is $7 Million
Besides bragging rights, the winner of the latest edition of the African Cup of Nations stands to go home with $7 million. On the other hand, second and third-place finishers will win $4 million and $2.5 million, respectively. Of course, the prize money amount usually goes up depending on inflation and revenue collection, among other factors.
12. Several Teams Have Withdrawn from the Tournament in the Past for Bizarre Reasons
Besides South Africa, who were disqualified for its apartheid policies, other African countries have in the past withdrawn from the tournament for bizarre reasons. For instance, the Togo National Team withdrew from the 2010 edition after their team bus was hijacked by gunmen in Cabinda, Angola. Nigeria also once opted out because of political reasons.
13. There Have Been Three Africa Cup of Nations Trophies So Far
It is a long-standing tradition of the Africa Cup of Nations tournament to permanently award the trophy to whichever country three-peats it. Since the competition’s first edition, three teams (Ghana, Cameroon, and Egypt) have managed the feat.
14. Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o Is the Competition’s All-Time Top Scorer
The African Cup of Nations has seen loads of stars since soccer became popular in the continent. From Egypt’s Ahmed Hossam Hussein “Mido” to Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba and Nigeria’s Jay Jay Okocha, there hasn’t been a shortage of goal scorers. However, one name triumphs them all: Samuel Eto’o. The Cameroonian holds the record for the most goals scored in the competition with 18 goals.