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Facts About African Cup Of Nations

From the passionate chants of fans to the vibrant colors that fill stadiums, the African Cup of Nations is a spectacle unlike any other. It's a celebration of African football talent and culture, as well as an ever-shifting landscape of sportsmanship and competition. A single trophy has been passed between nations for more than sixty years, each team striving to bring it home. You can almost feel the anticipation in the air before every match, as teams from around Africa battle it out for glory.

So let's explore some soccer facts about this incredible tournament:

  • its history, hosts and winners;
  • its format and rules;
  • its trophy and awards;
  • noteworthy players;
  • and impactful controversies.

History and Overview

You already know that the Africa Cup of Nations is a prestigious football tournament in Africa held since 1957, but its history dates even further back to 1956 when the creation of CAF was proposed.

The first tournament had three participating countries: Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia while South Africa was disqualified due to apartheid policies. Over the years it expanded from 16 teams in 1998 to 24 teams in 2017.

Egypt has been the most successful nation with seven titles while Ghana and Cameroon have won two each. The current trophy was first awarded in 2002 and Egypt won three consecutive titles in 2006, 2008, and 2010 before switching to odd-numbered years in 2013.

Senegal is the current champion after winning the 2021 edition on penalties against Egypt. This year's tournament will feature 12 yet-to-qualify teams along with Madagascar, Burundi, and Mauritania making their debut appearances.

Each winner receives a prize money of 4 million euros as well as 30 gold medals for top teams plus a Fair Play Award for the best record of fair play.

Hosts and Winners

Experience the thrilling journey of the African Cup of Nations, where countries battle it out for the golden trophy like gladiators in an arena.

Egypt has hosted the tournament a record four times, with Morocco hosting twice and Tunisia, South Africa, Libya, and Ivory Coast once each. In 2000, Nigeria and Ghana co-hosted for the first time outside of Africa.

The 2019 tournament was held in Egypt, who has won seven titles overall – more than any other country. Cameroon has five titles while Algeria claimed their second title in 2019 after beating Senegal in the final.

South Africa was the first host nation to claim a win when they triumphed over Tunisia in 1996. Madagascar made their debut that year alongside Burundi and Mauritania, who will be making their maiden appearances this year too.

12 spots are still up for grabs, so there is plenty of excitement still to come!

Format and Rules

The format of the Africa Cup of Nations has changed and evolved over time, with the tournament now featuring 24 teams playing in a round-robin group stage followed by a single-elimination knockout phase. You can qualify directly to the final tournament as either the host or defending champion.

There are also several qualifying rounds to determine which teams will advance to the main competition. The first round is a group stage where each team plays against all other teams in their group, with the top two progressing to the next round. This is then followed by a single-elimination knockout phase until only one team remains.

The winner of each edition receives a replica of one of three trophies that have been awarded since 1957; an original silver trophy named after CAF's first president, an 'Trophy of African Unity', and a gold-plated cup awarded from 2002 onwards. In addition, 30 gold, silver, and bronze medals are given out for outstanding performances during the tournament.

Trophy and Awards

Three trophies have been awarded to the winners of the competition since 1957, with a gold-plated cup granted from 2002 onwards.

The original trophy was made of silver, named after the first CAF president.

The second trophy was called 'Trophy of African Unity' and the third is the gold-plated cup awarded since 2002.

In addition to receiving a replica of whichever trophy is currently in use, those who win also receive 30 gold, silver, and bronze medals from CAF.

The Fair Play Award is also given to the team that shows the best record of fair play during their tournament run.

There are other tournaments for different age groups held in Africa such as U-23, U-20, U-18, U-17, and U-15 Tournaments.

A one-time Afro-Asian Club Championship was held in 2010 and weightlifting competitions are also occasionally held.

Noteworthy Players

Legendary players from around the continent have graced the Africa Cup of Nations, capturing fans' imaginations with their skill and flair on the field.

Samuel Etoo of Cameroon holds the record for most goals scored in the tournament with 18.

In 2021, Egyptian goalkeeper Essam el Hadary became the oldest player to feature at 44 years and 21 days.

Gabon's Shiva Nzigou was 16 when he made his debut and scored in 2019, making him the youngest ever player.

Morocco's Mustapha Hadji is remembered for scoring two stunning free-kicks against Cameroon in 2000.

Nigeria's Jay-Jay Okocha won Player of The Tournament twice as well as scoring 2 goals in one match against South Africa in 2004.

Hosts Egypt also had an impressive showing over time with Mohamed Salah winning Top Goal Scorer and Most Valuable Player awards in 2017.

The AFCON continues to bring out legendary players from all corners of Africa who continue to entertain us each year!

Impact and Controversies

Despite its colorful and passionate atmosphere, the Africa Cup of Nations has not been immune to controversies over the years. From political interference to issues of corruption and financial mismanagement, controversy has often accompanied the tournament.

In 2017, Libya was stripped of hosting rights due to security concerns and Ebola fears disrupted the 2015 edition. The tournament has also seen a number of financial irregularities, with accusations that funds have been diverted away from development programs for football in Africa.

In addition, there have been several instances where players were found guilty of match-fixing or doping offences during the tournament. Despite these controversies, the African Cup of Nations remains one of the most prestigious sporting tournaments on the continent and continues to captivate audiences worldwide.


To wrap it up, the African Cup of Nations is an exciting and important tournament that has been bringing together teams from across the continent for over 60 years. It's no coincidence that some of the world's greatest players have come out of this tournament, and it continues to be a platform for showcasing African culture around the world.

The ACN has its fair share of controversies, but there's no doubt that it will continue to captivate audiences with its passionate atmosphere and thrilling matches for years to come.

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