African Cup of Nations

Between January 19th and February 20th, 2002 school children from all over Africa along with their parents and friends were glued to their radios and TV sets. What was so important? They had football (soccer) fever! After an elimination process that lasted nearly six months, national teams representing 16 African countries earned the right to participate in the African Cup of Nations tournament, the premiere sporting event in Africa. The African Cup of Nations tournament takes place every two years hosted by a different African country. In 2002 the West African country of Mali hosted the tournament.

The 16 countries that played in the Africa Cup of Nations

  1. Algeria
  2. Burkina Faso
  3. Cameroon
  4. Democratic Republic of Congo
  5. Côte d’Ivoire
  6. Egypt
  7. Ghana
  8. Liberia
  9. Mali
  10. Morocco
  11. Nigeria
  12. Senegal
  13. South Africa
  14. Togo
  15. Tunisia
  16. Zambia


Using information provided on both the political map of Africa and the list of participating countries to answer the following questions:

  • What strikes you about the geographic distribution of African countries that made it to the African Cup of Nations tournament?
  • What region in Africa do you think has the strongest football tradition?
  • What region is least well represented in African Cup of Nations tournament?

After one month of exciting matches that were listened to and watched by tens of millions of people from all over the continent, the African championship came down to the final match between Cameroon, a traditional powerhouse in African football, and Senegal. It was a tense and exciting match that after regulation time ended in a draw. Neither team scored in the twenty minute overtime period. Consequently, the championship came down to a penalty shoot-out. The first two penalty shooters for each team made their shoots. The third penalty kicker from Cameroon made his shot. However, to the great disappointment of millions of fans in Senegal, he missed his shot. Can you imagine how he felt? This was like missing a foul shot at the last second in a championship basketball game, or failing to make a touch down on fourth down and inches on the last play of a Super-Bowl game!

Cameroon Celebates Win 2002
Cameroon team celebration their victory in the African Cup of Nations Championship game, 2/20/02 @ BBC world Service

As in the United States sports are very important in most African countries. Many school children and young people are just as interested in most recent football or cricket match as they are in their school-work. Is this familiar?