by Nsenga K. Burton
While the free world is fixated on Superbowl XLVII, another major sporting event is taking place — the Africa Cup of Nations, also referred to as CAN (French for Coupe d’Afrique des Nations) and the African Cup of Nations. The African Cup of Nations is the major international association for football (soccer) in Africa. Founded in 1957, the sporting event is held every two years and the title holders qualify for the FIFA Confederations Cup. In 1957, there were three countries participating in the tournament – Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. South Africa was banned from competition due to Apartheid policies at the time. Since then, the competition has grown to include teams from 16 African countries, with Egypt being the most successful nation in the Cup’s history. Egypt has won the tournament seven times, including when they were named the United Arab Republic (1968 to 1971). The 1960s were marked by Ghanian dominance; Cameroon and Nigeria dominated the 1980s and 1994 marked the inclusion of South Africa, whose ban was lifted after the end of Apartheid. South Africa failed to qualify for the Cup in 1994, but qualified and served as tournament host in 1996.
Today, many in the world are focused on who will win the battle of Superbowl XLVII between AFC Champions The Baltimore Ravens and NFC Champions, the San Francisco 49ers. Not everyone is thinking about American football; millions are watching African football (soccer) and one of the most important soccer tournaments leading up to the FIFA World Cup which will be held in Brazil in 2014. Nigeria’s Emmanuel Emenike and the Ivory Coast’s YaYa Toure have as much fame as the Ravens’ Ray Lewis and 49ers Colin Kaepernick. For the record Burkina Faso has beaten Togo and Nigeria has put away the Ivory Coast in the quarter finals. Next up, the semi-finals. Who will win the African Cup of Nations is as important a question in the African Diaspora as who will win Superbowl XLVII.
Follow the African Cup of Nations on AllAfrica.com.