The very first AFCON was organized to mark the Confederation of African Football (CAF) official launched in Khartoum in 1957. The competition has always been about more than “just” football. One of CAF’s founding fathers, the effective and charismatic Ethiopian Yidnekatchew Tessema, later gave a stirring speech in Cairo in 1974 in which he painted a vision of football as a force to unite the continent.
The Ethiopian made a call to the general assembly that it affirms that Africa is one and indivisible. That we work towards the unity of Africa together. And we condemn superstition, tribalism, all forms of discrimination within our football and in all domains of life. We do not accept the division of Africa into Francophone or Anglophone. Arabs from north Africa and Zulus from South Africa, we are all authentic Africans. Those who try to divide us by way of football are not our friends ”
Unfortunately, when CAF was founded in 1957, many African countries were still struggling to gain independence from European colonial rule, and only three countries participated in the first competition. South Africa (a founding member) had been banned after its apartheid administrators refused to field a racially mixed team. So just two matches were played, with Ethiopia given a pass to the final. Egypt narrowly defeated hosts Sudan 2-1 in their semi-final, before blowing Ethiopia away 4-0, making Egypt the first-ever nation to be crowned champions of Africa.
African Cup of Nations, the most prestigious football competition in Africa, is contested by national teams and is organized by the Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF).
The format of the competition has changed over time, with the number of teams increasing from 3 in 1957 to 24 in 2019 after several expansions. Growing participation also led to the introduction of qualifying rounds in 1968, the same year that CAF decided to hold the tournament biennially.
The Africa Cup of Nations has always been a competition that is more than just football, it brings about brotherhood among Africans, and it is a celebration of pride, a feeling that is embedded in all Africans, the love and thrill of the game. The countries raising their flags down to trumpets by spectators. Africans live for this major men competition and always for excitement it brings.
The European Clubs Association( ECA ) sent a letter to FIFA Deputy Secretary General Mattias Grafstrom on Dec. 10, aiming to prevent European-based players from reporting to camp for the African Cup of Nations.
The European Club Association (ECA), threatened to withdraw their players from the African Cup of Nations. In a letter to CAF, the ECA raised their concerns about letting their players leave for international duty during this time of widespread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and also at the peak of their various league and cup competitions.
In the statement made by them, they said “they feared for the players”. The irony of this whole situation is like telling a child not to go home because he’s home is not safe. Since time immemorial we have found solace and felt secure in our homes only for the audacious ECA to ask our players to stay back like Europe did not record more cases of the virus than Africa.
The ECA said: “It is the obligation of each National Association that wishes to call a player for national team duty to establish to the satisfaction of the respective clubs that all medical protocols have been implemented and will be enforced.
“As we all know this as public information, various National Associations have recently failed to properly implement protocols and mostly with worrying degrees of negligence.
In another statement they said “As far as we are aware, CAF has not yet made available a suitable medical and operational protocol for the AFCON tournament.”
The ECA raising their issue with when the tournament is played resurrected a longstanding conflict between Europe’s and Africa’s match scheduling. They state that because the two periods collide “there can not be mandatory release of players for international duty”
But all their pleas fell on deaf ears as CAF and Africans were determined to make the African Cup of Nations a success without postponing it.
CAF rejected the European Clubs Association request and went on with the preparations for the biggest football competition on the continent. Thanks to the CAF community and dedicated Africans like Samuel Eto’o who fought tirelessly. Some football players in various European teams were allowed to come back home even though some of them were denied the opportunity.
The stage is set the players are ready to play the biggest game on the Continent. Amazing players like Mo Sallah, Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez, the last AFCON Champion’s captain .
Also, there are beautiful and Talented players like Herve Koffi of Burkina Faso, Odilon Kossounou of Ivory coast, Achaf Hakimi, Illias Chair, Yves Bissouna, Umar Sadiq and many more talented Football stars are set to participate in the games.
The good news is that the Competition has commenced in a very colorful manner. As teams are battling and eager to lay their hands on the golden cup.
The commencement of the AFCON 2022 is a step towards greatness for Africans. It shows we have a voice of our own and we do not have to oblige the Europeans in everything. This is a step towards greatness.