Prepared by: Reda Hamdallah
The African Cup of Nations football tournaments have witnessed well-established events since their inception in 1957 in Sudan, whether in the form of the tournament, the timing of its organization, or the withdrawals and exclusions it recorded. The first of which was the exclusion of the South African national team from the first tournament due to its country’s policy and the insistence of those in charge of it to include only white players and not their black teammates. In recognition of his known racism that lasted for many years.
South Africa was among the 4 countries that established the African Union and included the names of its teams in the Sudan tournament, but it was excluded for this reason, which paved the way for Ethiopia to qualify directly for the final match to meet the Egyptian team that won the first edition and won the largest number of titles in this African Cup, with 7 wins in particular. In the years 1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008 and 2010.
Although South Africa was excluded, other countries withdrew from the tournament in certain sessions, including Nigeria, whose national team withdrew before the start of the African Nations Championship in 1996 in South Africa, due to tense relations between the two countries, after the Nigerian president executed 8 of his opponents due to protests against his policy and the sale of oil wealth. This angered Nelson Mandela, who demanded a boycott of the purchase of Nigerian oil.
As a reaction from Nigeria to the decision of the South African leader to boycott the African Cup tournament organized in his country on the grounds that Nelson Mandela interfered in his country’s affairs, the tournament would be played with only 15 teams despite an attempt to replace Nigeria with the Guinea team. The idea of participating was presented to him as the best team that did not qualify for the finals, but those responsible for it refused. The call is justified by the short period of preparation for these African finals.
Nigeria was not the only one to withdraw from the cup finals, but also the Togolese national team, which withdrew from the 2010 tournament in Angola after the national team bus was attacked and shot by gunmen in the Angolan enclave of Cabinda, which resulted in the death of two members of the delegation, and they were forced to leave after failing to attend the opening match. In the second group, which was scheduled against Ghana on January 10th.
The two withdrawals were not the only ones that distinguished this tournament, but incidents such as abandoning a programmed match after the players of one of the parties left before the end of the time, and the matter concerns the Tunisian national team, which left the field in the 42nd minute of the first half, with the score tied one goal for another, in protest against… The atmosphere in which it passed against the Nigerian national team, which won the pen with two goals.
The year in which the Moroccan team won its first and last African title in 1976 was the exception, as there was no official final match and a winner was determined by its results in a group whose matches were played back and forth and in which 4 teams competed: Morocco, Guinea, Nigeria and Egypt, but the competitions produced two decisive matches in Classification, where Morocco faced its rival, Guinea, tied with one goal, and won the title.
This tournament was not an official final match, similar to the 1959 tournament in Egypt, in which the winner of the tournament was determined by the second round group, which witnessed the competition of the teams of Sudan, Ethiopia, and the United Arab Republic (Egypt), but the last match was between the two teams with the highest points, namely Egypt and Sudan, where Egypt usually scored two goals to one to win the title.