The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations was won by Nigeria (the Super Eagles), beating Burkina Faso 1-0 in the final. This is the 3rd time that Nigeria have won this competition, which started in 1957 and is held every other year. Burkina Faso’s previous best was coming 4th in 1998. In reaching the final, Nigeria beat Mali in one of the semi-finals, Burkina Faso beat Ghana in a penalty shoot-out in the other semi-final. In the 3rd place play-off, Mali beat Ghana 3-1. This may be the first time that all 4 teams reaching the semi-finals have all come from West Africa, and in fact all 4 are very close to each other geographically.
When I was growing up in the 1970s, I do not recall any awareness of African football. The only other part of the World outside of Europe which got any attention was South America, and of course back in those days the great players like Pele did not play in Europe, they played their club football in South America.
But things have changed. Europeans are now used to seeing African footballers, many of the best footballers playing in Europe in the last 20 years come from Africa. Didier Drogba, who was instrumental in my team Chelsea’s successes over the last several years, is from Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast).
Such has been the growth of African football and the interest in it in Europe that this year’s tournament had every match live on the sports channel Eurosport, and many of the matches were also shown in the Disunited Kingdom on the Freeview channel ITV4. With most English Premiership teams having several African players in their squads, the standard of football in the Africa Cup of Nations is very high, probably only surpassed by the standards in the Euro football championships and in the World Cup.
Looking at the list of countries who have reached the final four of the Africa Cup of Nations since its inception in 1957, one can see that football spans the entire African continent. Past winners include Egypt, Morocco, Cameroon, Zambia and South Africa, every corner of the continent. it just shows that football truly is the global game.