South Africa rewrites history as the CAF founding member

Molefi Mika and BBC

Molefi Mika and BBC

The history of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) or the Nations Cup, as some choose to call it, is an interesting one, especially for South Africa.

This considering that South Africa was one of the founding members of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in 1956 with the main focus being to have different nations meeting in a continental spectacle.

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

That was precisely the aim of a meeting between seven delegates in Lisbon the previous year.

There CAF 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.

White apartheid rulers and their constituencies deemed it taboo to have South Africans of different races playing sport together.

So with South Africa out, the tournament came down to a playoff between just three teams - Egypt, hosts Sudan and Ethiopia.

Ironically, 39 years later, at the end of apartheid, South Africa returned to rescue CAF by staging the expanded 16-team event after Kenya withdrew as hosts in 1996.

South Africa, who were now more like rookies, actually won the Afcon at home with Clive Barker as coach. Inexperience, nevertheless, showed on the part of their Bafana Bafana team when their captain Neil Tovey went on stage to receive the prestigious trophy wearing an opposition (Tunisia) jersey.

Two years later South Africa sent a youthful side guided by innovative Jomo Sono to defend in Burkina Faso. But they found the more experienced Pharoahs from Egypt uncompromising lot in the final when they were shaded 2-0.

Back to earlier days. Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia played the first two tournaments in odd years before it increased to four, six, eight, 12 and then 16 teams.

Every adjustment increased the chances of seeing the best players in the continent.

Papa Camara, Petit Sory and Cherif Souleymane were the cream of an excellent Guinean side who could easily be compared to the devastating Nigerian and Cameroonian squads of the last decade.

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 Afcon tournaments of the 1960s.

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

The Afcon finals are always colourful affairs

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.

And while there have been many highlights, few Afcon tournaments have taken place without any problems.

Mali, one of the poorest countries, had their own difficulties in getting their tournament off the ground when they hosted in 2004. Many felt the money poured into hosting the sporting extravaganza could be better spent.

One thing is certain, though - that CAF and the Afcon are still in existence is because of the passion for the game on the African continent. See more on the Afcon on the next pages.


1957 Egypt

1959 Egypt

1962 Ethiopia

1963 Ghana

1965 Ghana

1968 Congo (Kinshasa)

1970 Sudan

1972 Congo (Brazzaville)

1974 Zaire

1976 Morocco

1978 Ghana

1980 Nigeria

1982 Ghana

1984 Cameroon

1986 Egypt

1988 Cameroon

1990 Algeria

1992 Ivory Coast

1994 Nigeria

1996 South Africa

1998 Egypt

2000 Cameroon

2002 Cameroon

2004 Tunisia

2006 Egypt


2006 Egypt

2004 Mali

2002 Tunisia

2000 Ghana/Nigeria

1998 Burkina Faso

1996 South Africa

1994 Tunisia

1992 Senegal

1990 Algeria

1988 Morocco

1986 Egypt

1984 Ivory Coast

1982 Libya

1980 Nigeria

1978 Ghana

1976 Ethiopia

1974 Egypt

1972 Cameroon

1970 Sudan

1968 Ethiopia

1965 Tunisia

1963 Ghana

1962 Ethiopia

1959 Egypt

1957 Sudan