When it comes to sports, Africa stands proud of its history. Football is undoubtedly a popular game with fans all around the world. From Europe to Africa, you wouldn’t find a single place where there are no football players and fans. Football in Africa is a topic worth talking about; with its long and deep history, there is a lot to discover and learn.
Before we get started, you must know that football has been one of the most famous sports in almost all African countries. Cricket and rugby come after football in popularity among the Africans.
The Early History of Football in Africa
The European colonialists were the ones who introduced Africans to football during the 19th century. According to the historical records, the first football game in Africa was played in 1862. During the late 19th century, 1882 to be precise, the game had gotten famous throughout the continent, especially among the military, missionaries, and the railways. The first and oldest African football clubs were founded in the same year – Savages FC from South Africa and Gezira SC from Egypt.
In 1890, another football club was founded called the Alexandria FC from Egypt. Later, in 1897 CAL Oran from Algeria came into being. Soon in the 20th-century, football was being played in the whole continent of Africa, including central Africa.
Superstitions Related to Football Games in Africa
Although there are almost no superstitions related to football games present in Africa anymore, there was a time when teams would take part in bizarre rituals before going to the game. Before the CAF was founded, the witch doctors played a significant role in African Football. They would cut the players, sacrifice animals, and place potions on game equipment before games. There is even evidence of the exploitation of children by football trafficking agents.
Other than superstitions and bizarre rituals, lack of organization and internal disputes among the national team officials, players, and federation officials were also major reasons behind the issues in African football.
African Football in the 20th Century
During the 20th century, African Football went through a great development. African Football gained much worldwide fame and honor. In FIFA Club World Cup 2010, the Congolese team TP Mazembe represented Africa for the first time on an international level after reaching the final match against Inter Milan (Italian club).
The 1990s was the decade of change for African Football. One of the major changes was the migration of young African boys to Europe and sought big careers there. Some of these boys succeed, while others failed.
The Confederation of African football, 1957
In 1957, Sudan played a major role in founding the governing of African Football called Confederation of African football. The four founding members of CAF included South Africa, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt. In the same year, the first Africa Cup of Nations (a biannual continental tournament) was held.
After 1957, there have always been plenty of African competitors who have been participating in the World Cup. With that being said, a point to be noted is that the highest rank an African football team has ever gotten at the World Cup in the quarterfinals.
Women’s Football in Africa
For a very long time, football was considered a “hyper-masculine” game in Africa, and the continent wasn’t really supportive of the idea of women playing football. However, by 1960, Nigeria became the first African country to host numerous women’s football teams. Several efforts were made to start women’s football clubs in South Africa during the 1960s, but it wasn’t that easy.
In 1970, development and a women’s football league came into being in Nigeria and later in several Western African countries. It wasn’t until the 1990s that women were able to represent Africa internationally by playing football. A major reason behind this was the male dominancy in the government, football associations, and businesses that were against women playing Football in Africa.
In 1989, even without the support of Nigerian officials, 28 women’s football clubs kept playing in the country. By the 1990s, more and more women started playing football, and after much effort, in 1998, CAF introduced the first official African Women’s Championship.
Even today, there is a lack of funding for women’s teams in Africa, due to which not many African women get to play football on a higher level.
Footballers Who Won the African Footballer of the Year
The African Footballer of the Year is an award that is presented to the best African football player each year. The award was first introduced by the Confederation of African Football in 1992 and is still held every year. Some footballers who have won the African Footballer of the Year are as follows:
- Salif Keita – the first player to win the award in 1970.
- Lakhdar Belloumi – won the award of 1981.
- Mahmoud El-Khatib – first Egyptian player to win the award in 1983.
- Abedi Pele – won consecutively from 1991 to 1993.
- George Weah – won in 1995.
- Samuel Eto’o – won the award four different times.
- Didier Drogba – first Ivorian to win the award in 2006.
- Yaya Toure – won the award consecutively for four years from 2011 to 2014.
- Pierre- Emerick Aubameyang – first Gabonese player to win the award in 2015.
- Riyad Mahrez – won the award in 2016.
- Mohamed Salah – won the award for two years in a row from; 2017 and 2018.
- Sadio Mane – the winner of the award in 2019.
Africa has a very long history regarding sports, and it is a fact that football is the most favorite sport among the African countries. The fact that a large number of the best footballers of the world belong to African countries makes it clear how much talent and stamina Africa has been holding.
Throughout the history of football, African footballers have proved their talent in front of the world, and we believe it will continue in the future too. The only thing that bothers most female football fans is that the women’s football teams in Africa do not receive as much attention as they deserve. The lack of support and funding does not allow these talented women to represent their countries on an international level.
We hope that there will be some development in the near future, and we will get to see more African women’s football clubs playing internationally and proving themselves too.