How often is the Africa Cup of Nations played?

Nancy Marende

The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is the biggest football tournament in Africa. AFCON was first contested by three teams in Sudan back in 1957. The teams were Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt.

Egypt beat Sudan to win the first cup. Since then, AFCON has become the most prestigious cup in the continent. Up until 2019, the tournament had a total of 16 teams competing. The number of teams has since increased to 24.  

The Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF) is the organizer of the cup. 

How many AFCON trophies are there?

Ivory Coast players celebrating the AFCON 2015 win
Ivory Coast players celebrating the AFCON 2015 win. Image: Wikipedia/BenSutherland 

Since the first tournament, three trophies have been awarded.

The first Cup, the Abdel Aziz Abdallah Salem Trophy, was permanently awarded to Ghana in 1978 after being the first country to win the cup three times.

The second trophy – African Unity Cup – was awarded to Cameroon in 2000. The team had bagged its third championship since 1978.

The current and third trophy, The Africa Cup of Nations, debuted two years later in 2002 and is being used to date.

Why is the Africa Cup of Nations played every 2 years?

The Africa Cup of Nations is played once every two years. This decision was made in 1968, following growing participation by teams across the continent. This move by the CAF was also meant to spur the development of football in the region.

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In the same year, CAF introduced qualifying rounds in the tournament.

In 2013, CAF changed the tournament format from being held every even-numbered year to odd-numbered years.

Nigerian players celebrating the AFCON 2013 win
Nigerian players celebrating the AFCON 2013 win. Image: Wikipedia/Happiraphael 

The switch on how often the Africa Cup of Nations is played was to keep the tournament from clashing with the FIFA World Cup.

AFCON Cup Winners over the years

Below are the winners of the biennial AFCON tournaments since 1957.

YEARCOUNTRY
1957Egypt
1959Egypt
1962Ethiopia
1963Ghana
1965Ghana
1968Congo (Kinshasa)
1970Sudan
1972Congo (Brazzaville)
1974Zaire
1976Morocco
1978Ghana
1980Nigeria
1982Ghana
1984Cameroon
1986Egypt
1988Cameroon
1990Algeria
1992Côte d’Ivoire
1994Nigeria
1996South Africa
1998Egypt
2000Cameroon
2002Cameroon
2004Tunisia
2006Egypt
2008Egypt
2010Egypt
2012Zambia
2013Nigeria
2015Côte d’Ivoire
2017Cameroon
2019Algeria
2021Senegal

Worth noting is that the 2021 AFCON tournament was pushed to 2022 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are the criteria for hosting AFCON?

To host the AFCON tournament, the interested country must have six stadiums. All these stadiums will be used by all the 24 teams playing.

The specific CAF requirements for the stadiums are; two stadiums of 40,000, 20,000 15,000 seating capacity.

The COVID-19 pandemic affected spectator turnout at the 2021 tournament held in Cameroon.

Who has won the most Africa Cup of Nations tournaments?

Since 1957, there have been 14 winners of the AFCON tournament. Of these, 7 wins go to Egypt. The Egypt national team has also finished twice as runners-up, in 1962 and again in 2017.

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