African Nations Cup football South Africa - In the beginning in 1957, the African Nations Cup had just three entries, comprising Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia after South Africa, part founders of Confederation of African Football (CAF), were thrown out owing to an acrimonious apartheid policy. By 1962, entry had risen to eight with Nigeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Ghana, Uganda and the then Zanzibar joining CAF. That necessitated the very first qualifying series that produced four finalists.
The competition expanded in 1963 from four finalists to six. More countries entered the 1965 edition in Tunisia, but the six-team format was retained. The edition which was the last to be held in an odd year witnessed the first political problem.
Egypt withdrew for not having diplomatic relationship with Tunisia. In its place, Sudan was invited but they declined. Then Congo was drafted.
Also, for the first time, leader in a group was decided by a toss of the coin when Tunisia and Senegal tied on points. Tunisia won the toss.
By 1968 in Ethiopia, the format attained a definitive form of two groups with four teams and 16 matches in all. That format held on till Senegal ’92 when Isa Hayatou expanded the finalist teams from eight to 12.
They were divided into four groups of three teams. The oddity of the format was that a team was almost guaranteed qualifying for the quarter finals after winning its opening match.
Since 1998 in Burkina Faso, the present 16 team format was adopted.
Not always a smooth organisation, the African Nations Cup had sometimes being enmeshed in political wrangling. The first time politics crept in was at the inaugural edition when South Africa was thrown out.
In 1965, Egypt pulled out for political reasons. The country was almost boycotting the 1990 edition in Algeria, almost for the same reasons after a bitterly contested game in the World Cup qualifying series and also, perhaps, a follow-up to the bitterness that had existed between Algeria and Egypt since a riot-infested football match at the All-Africa Games in Algiers ’78.
Nigeria also pulled out of the 1996 edition in South Africa after a political row that followed the execution of the “Ogoni 9”.
Hosting too, suffered instability. For instance, the 1980 edition hosted by Nigeria was originally awarded to Senegal in 1976. Also, Morocco replaced Zambia as the 1988 hosts just as Nigeria and Ghana were called in to co-host the 2000 edition when Zimbabwe could not cope with the logistics.
Even the edition of 1996 which South Africa hosted was originally awarded to Kenya. Again, South Africa is hosting this year’s edition in place of politically-troubled Libya.
As the games get underway Saturday, South Africa will be up against debutants Cape Verde, a platform that could afford the Bafana Bafana to shore up its rapidly diminishing stature in the African Nations Cup.
Since winning on home soil in 1996, South Africa has progressively been declining with every edition. They were runners up in 1998, semi-finalists in 2000, quarter finalists in 2002, third-placed in group stage in 2004 and last placed in group stage of 2006.
They retained the bottom position of their group in 2008 and failed to qualify for the 2010 and 2012 editions. They owe their present participation to the automatic slot for the host country.
But to the credit of Bafana Bafana, they hardly lose their opening games in the African Nations Cup. In 1996, they pummelled Cameroon 3-0. In 1998, they drew goalless with Angola in their first match. In the next edition of 2000, South Africa beat Gabon 3-1 but drew 0-0 with Burkina Faso in 2002.
The only loss suffered in their first match was in Egypt 2006 after a 2-0 defeat by Guinea. But with over 90,000 fans cheering at the calabash-shaped National Stadium Saturday, the South Africans are expected to be in their best element to kick-start a possible resurgence of Bafana Bafana.
Cape Verde and South Africa have met twice in the past. Both encounters, World Cup qualifiers, were won by Bafana Bafana.
After the opening game, Angola and Morocco will then grace the stage. Angola will be attempting to swing the pendulum which had been in favour of the North Africans. They had met five times in the past. Morocco won four times while the last encounter was drawn.