Football in Africa

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Football in Africa
Governing bodyConfederation of African Football
International competitions
Best results of African men's national teams at the FIFA World Cup

Football is the most popular sport in Africa. Indeed, football is probably the most popular sport in every African country, although rugby and cricket are also very popular in South Africa.[1]


Football was first introduced to Africa in the late 19th century by Europeans.[2] The game was first played in the continent in 1862; historian Peter Alegi said that it "spread very quickly through the mission schools, through the military forces and through the railways." Teams were being established in South Africa before 1900, Egypt and in Algeria during a similar time period. Savages FC (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), and Gezira SC are the oldest African football clubs that remain in existence. Both began play in 1882 followed by Alexandria SC (1890) and CAL Oran from Algeria in 1897. By the 1930s, football was being played in Central Africa.

As Africa is a highly superstitious continent many African teams depend on witch doctors for success.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9] Activities that witch doctors have performed for teams include cutting players, placing potions on equipment, and sacrificing animals.[10]

Children are also often exploited by agents.[11][12][13][14] Other issues faced in African football include a lack of organisation by national team officials, and internal disputes between players and federation officials.[15]


The Confederation of African Football (CAF) was founded in 1957, Sudan was the founder of African football by creating CAF with four member nations: Egypt, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Sudan.[16] The first Africa Cup of Nations was held the same year, with a three-team field. Egypt won the inaugural African Cup of Nations, defeating Ethiopia 4–0 in the final.[17] As the sport grew football associations grew across the continent. Qualification rounds were added for the 1962 event. African national teams compete in the Africa Cup of Nations and also in the African Nations Championship for local teams.[17][18]

The first African nation to participate in the FIFA World Cup was Egypt in 1934.[19] That remained the only World Cup appearance by a team from the continent until 1966, when a team from CAF was originally scheduled to compete in a playoff with teams from Asia and Oceania for one tournament berth. In response, CAF nations boycotted World Cup qualifying, and FIFA granted CAF one guaranteed berth in the 1970 tournament.[20] Starting in 1970, African nations at the FIFA World Cup started to compete regularly.[20][21] Zaire was Africa's representative at the 1974 edition of the competition.[22][23][24][25] The team lost all three of its games.[25] In 1977, Pelé stated his belief that a team from the continent would be crowned World Cup champions by the end of the 20th century, which proved incorrect.[26]

After the 1970, 1974, and 1978 World Cups, which each had one African qualifier, there were two teams from the continent in 1982: Algeria and Cameroon, each of which missed out on advancing from the group stage on goal difference. The 1986 and 1990 World Cups also featured two African nations; Morocco reached the round of 16 in 1986 after finishing first in their group.[27] Cameroon advanced to the quarterfinals of the 1990 World Cup, becoming the first African national team to do so. Senegal and Ghana matched the feat, in 2002 and 2010 respectively.[19] By 2010 South Africa become the first African nation to host the World Cup.[28][29]

Women's football[edit]

Numerous Nigerian cities hosted women's football teams by 1960. Multiple efforts were made in the 1960s to start women's football clubs in South Africa, but they proved fleeting. The 1970s saw some growth, with new women's leagues in Nigeria and an expansion of women's football into Western African countries, including Senegal. One local club in Dakar played a match against an Italian club in 1974; five years later, an early match between African nations was played by the Dakar side and a team from Guinea.[30]

Despite a lack of support from Nigerian officials, 28 clubs played women's football in the country by 1989, and Nigeria's national team competed in the 1991 Women's World Cup. More women began playing football in the 1990s, in countries like Nigeria and South Africa. In 1998, CAF introduced an official African Women's Championship, following two unofficial versions of the tournament earlier in the 1990s; host country Nigeria won, beginning a stretch of five consecutive titles in the event. The next year, the squad reached the quarterfinals of the 1999 Women's World Cup.[31]

Football is played in a limited capacity by women due to a lack of funding.[32] The masculine nature of football has proved a deterrent to women's involvement in football in Africa.[33][34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Football (Soccer) in Africa | Exploring Africa". Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  2. ^ "The History Of Soccer In Africa". 2010-06-09. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  3. ^ Frimpong, Enoch Darfah. "Ghana news: A world of superstition, frustration and disillusionment - Graphic Online". Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  4. ^ "For African soccer, days of juju men have mostly passed". LA Times. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  5. ^ "Call in the pitch doctor". Sun. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  6. ^ "Kangemi Journal; For Spellbinding Soccer, the Juju Man's on the Ball". NY Times. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  7. ^ "World Cup Witchcraft: Africa Teams Turn to Magic for Aid". National Geographic. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  8. ^ Andy Mitten. "The Rough Guide to Cult Football". Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  9. ^ "African Nations Cup overshadowed by hocus pocus | Football". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-04-09.
  10. ^ Kuper, Simon (2006). Soccer Against the Enemy: How the World's Most Popular Sport Starts and Stops Wars, Fuels Revolutions, and Keeps Dictators in Power. Nation Books. p. 123. ISBN 978-1-56025-878-0.
  11. ^ Edwards, Piers. "Can Fifa end child trafficking from Africa to Asia?". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  12. ^ Sinnott, John (2013-03-28). "Human traffic: Africa's lost boys -". Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  13. ^ Dan McDougall. "The scandal of Africa's trafficked players | Football". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  14. ^ Ed Hawkins (2015-12-22). "Victims or fraudsters? The world of football trafficking laid bare | News & Comment | Sport". The Independent. Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  15. ^ Kuper, Simon; Szymanski, Stefan (2009). Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Germany and Brazil Win, and Why the US, Japan, Australia, Turkey—and Even Iraq—Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World's Most Popular Sport. Nation Books. pp. 269–270. ISBN 978-1-56858-425-6.
  16. ^ Kuper (2006), p. 130.
  17. ^ a b "Africa Cup of Nations: A brief history". Guardian. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  18. ^ "African Cup of Nations - How it all began". BBC Sport. BBC. 14 December 2001. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  19. ^ a b Adam, Mohammed (2014-07-23). "Why African countries don't win the World Cup". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 2016-12-04.
  20. ^ a b "How Africa boycotted the 1966 World Cup - BBC News". Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  21. ^ Edwards, Piers. "Joao Havelange, the unlikely godfather of African football". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-08-27.
  22. ^ Merrill, Austin. "Zaire, the Leopards, and the 1974 World Cup". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  23. ^ "Zaire: The tale of Africa's disastrous entry into the World Cup - Daily Nation". Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  24. ^ "BBC SPORT | WORLD CUP | History | 1974: Zaire's show of shame". BBC News. 2002-05-22. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  25. ^ a b "Africa Honors Its Soccer Past and Looks Forward". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  26. ^ Sweetman, Tom (2014-06-13). "Brazil 2014: Five things African teams need to win first World Cup". CNN International. Retrieved 2016-12-04.
  27. ^ Kuper (2006), pp. 119–121.
  28. ^ Charles P. Korr (2013-12-05). "Nelson Mandela saw sport as way to connect S. Africans". Retrieved 2015-03-31.
  29. ^ "For Nelson Mandela, sports were major weapon against racism". 2013-12-06. Retrieved 2015-03-31.
  30. ^ Peter Alegi (2 March 2010). African Soccerscapes: How a Continent Changed the World's Game. Ohio University Press. p. 120. ISBN 978-0-89680-278-0. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  31. ^ Alegi, pp. 121–123.
  32. ^ Anna Kessel. "Ivory Coast exit Women's World Cup as Africa pleads for more support | Anna Kessel | Football". Retrieved 2016-04-03.
  33. ^ Alegi, p. 119.
  34. ^ Shearlaw, Maeve (3 December 2016). "Skilled, determined and broke: Africa's female football pioneers". Retrieved 4 December 2016 – via The Guardian.