What is the African Cup of Nations (AFCON)?


This is indisputably the biggest sporting event of the year for almost everyone in Africa, and most curiously in Europe where many of Africa’s best players ply their trade.

Here is a glossary rundown of the AFCON

The CAF Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), officially French: Coupe d’Afrique des Nations (CAN), also referred to as Total Africa Cup of Nations after its headline sponsor, and sometimes as African Cup of Nations,[1][2] is the main international men’s association football competition in Africa. It is sanctioned by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), and was first held in 1957.

Since 1968, it has been held every two years, switching to odd-numbered years in 2013. The current champion is Algeria, which won its second title at the 2019 tournament in Egypt.

In the first tournament in 1957, there were only three participating nations: Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. South Africa was originally scheduled to join, but was disqualified due to the apartheid policies of the government then in power.[3] Since then, the tournament has expanded greatly, making it necessary to hold a qualifying tournament. The number of participants in the final tournament reached 16 in 1998 (16 teams were to compete in 1996, but Nigeria withdrew, reducing the field to 15, and the same happened with Togo’s withdrawal in 2010), and until 2017, the format had been unchanged, with the 16 teams being drawn into four groups of four teams each, with the top two teams of each group advancing to a “knock-out” stage. On 20 July 2017, the Africa Cup of Nations was moved from January to June and expanded from 16 to 24 teams.[4]

Egypt is the most successful nation in the cup’s history, winning the tournament seven times (including in 1959, when Egypt was united with Syria as the United Arab Republic). Three trophies have been awarded during the tournament’s history, with Ghana, and Cameroon winning the first two versions to keep after each of them won a tournament three times. The current trophy was first awarded in 2002. Egypt won an unprecedented three consecutive titles in 2006, 2008, and 2010.

In 2013, the tournament format was switched to being held in odd-numbered years so as not to clash with the FIFA World Cup.