Cameroon, AFCON 2017 Champions! Credit: © Kawowo Sports | AMINAH BABIRYE
Cameroon, AFCON 2017 Champions! (Photo: Aminah Babirye) Credit: © Kawowo Sports | AMINAH BABIRYE

It’s exactly 30 days to the start of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. With the anticipation building up ahead of the coveted tournament, Kawowo Sports brings you a countdown to the championship that will be held in Egypt.

To fully understand the tournament, one ought to be informed about how it came into existence and today’s article looks at the formation of Africa Cup of Nations.

Scheduled to be the 32nd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, the biennial international men’s football championship of Africa organized by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) will be held from June 21 to July 19 2019, as per the decision of the CAF Executive Committee on July 20, 2017 to move the Africa Cup of Nations from January/February to June/July for the first time.

It will also be the first Africa Cup of Nations expanded from 16 to 24 teams

How did the tournament start?

The Confederation of African Football began its formation at the 29th FIFA Congress in Bern, Switzerland, in June 1954.

Africa was represented at the Congress by four national associations: Egypt, who had joined FIFA in 1923; Sudan affiliated in 1948; Ethiopia in 1953 and South Africa in 1910 and 1952.

It was at that Congress that Africa was recognised as a zonal group with a right to have for the first time a representative on the FIFA Executive Committee. This representation was taken up by Engineer Abdel Aziz Abdallah Salem of Egypt.

The Congress then elected Abdel Aziz Abdallah Salem to represent Africa on the Executive Committee until a confederation was founded. Then, the African delegation agreed to meet in Lisbon in 1956 on the occasion of the FIFA Congress to realise the project.

From the same congress in Lisbon, an idea of starting a continental championship was developed and there were immediate plans for a continental tournament to be held.

But when CAF was founded in 1957, many African countries were still struggling to win independence from European colonial rule, and only three countries took part in the first competition.

In February 1957, the first African Cup of Nations was held in Khartoum, Sudan. There was no qualification for this tournament, the field being made up of the four founding nations of CAF (Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, and South Africa).

South Africa’s insistence on selecting only white players for their squad due to its apartheid policy led to its disqualification, and as a consequence, Ethiopia was handed a bye straight to the final.

Hence, only two matches were played, with Egypt being crowned as the first continental champion after defeating hosts Sudan in the semifinal 2-1 and Ethiopia 4-0 in the final.

Pharaohs’ striker Mohammed Diab El-Attar put in a performance that would never be forgotten, scoring all four of Egypt’s goals and eventually finishing as top scorer with five goals.

One of the great figures of mid-century African football, “Ad Diba”, as he was known, went on to appear at another Nations Cup final in Addis Ababa nine years later, but this time as the referee, having swapped his shooting boots for a whistle.

Joel Muyita

Joel Muyita is a senior staff writer at Kawowo Sports.

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