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10 facts and history you need to know about AFCON

The 34th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Côte d’Ivoire from January 13 to February 11.

Arguably the most prestigious nations football tournament in Africa, AFCON has, since its inception in 1957, been writing its own history edition after edition. Records are broken, new records are set and, above all, players and coaches carve a niche for themselves.

Times Sport suggests 10 facts need to know about the upcoming month long competition:

African record beckons for Ghana skipper Andre Ayew

Black Stars captain Andre Ayew could set two records in the 2023 AFCON in Côte d’Ivoire.

Ayew, 34, has made 34 appearances in the AFCON since making his tournament debut against Guinea in the 2008 AFCON in Ghana. With three more appearances at the 2023 edition, he is likely to surpass Cameroon legend Rigobert Song’s 36 appearances to become the first player with most appearances in the history of the competition.

Also, currently, Ayew, Samuel Eto’o and fellow Ghana legend Asamoah Gyan have scored at least a goal in the last six AFCON tournaments. The Ghana captain can set a new record with a goal in Côte d’Ivoire by becoming the first player in competition’s history to score in seven different editions.

No new faces at the 2023 edition

Since AFCON inception in 1957, 44 countries have participated but strangely enough, no new team will be making its maiden appearance at the 2023 edition.

The most recent edition of the competition, held in Cameroon in 2021, saw Gambia and Comoros making their debut in the tournament. They reached the round of 16 and the quarter finals respectively.

French Ligue 1 records highest representation

The “French” flavor can never be taken out of AFCON. French football has been a by-product of the AFCON from day one.

In the 2023 edition, the French Ligue 1 is contributing as many as 61 players to the competition, the highest in Europe’s top 5 leagues. The English Premier League ranks second with 30 players, Spanish La Liga has 19 while the German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A boast 16 players each.

Could a local coach win the AFCON again?

The previous two editions of the African Cup of Nations have been won by homegrown coacheswith Djamel Belmadi of Algeria winning it in Egypt in 2019 while Aliou Cisse lifted the title with Senegal in 2021 in Cameroon.

Senegal and Morocco are among hot favorites to win AFCON 2023 and that puts Cisse on the right path to retain the title while Walid Regragui also looks destined to conquer Africa just like he almost ruled the world during the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Oldest and youngest players, squads

Mozambique’s Domingues also known as Elias Gaspar Pelembe heads to the AFCON 2023 as the oldest player in the tournament.

By the time Mozambique play their first game against Egypt at the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny on Sunday, January 14, Domingues will be 40 years, 2 months and 1 day old.

Meanwhile, Cameroon’s Wilfred Nathan is AFCON 2023’s youngest player as he looks forward to making his debut appearance at the competition at just 17 years.

In all, Egypt has the oldest squad with an average age of 28.85 years while Taifa Stars of Tanzania takes the youngest squad to Côte d’Ivoire with an average age of 24.64 years.

Only three coaches have previously won AFCON

Out of the 24 coaches going to the 2023 AFCON, only three have attained AFCON glory before. Hugo Broos won it with Cameroon in 2017 , Djamel Belmadi with Algeria in 2019 and Aliou Cissé with Senegal in 2021.

DR Congo chasing their second trophy in 55 years

Among the 24 countries participating in the 2023 AFCON, only Egypt, Ghana, host nation Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon, Algeria, South Africa, Tunisia, Morocco, Zambia and DR Congo have previously won the competition.

Going through the last time each of these countries won the tournament, the Leopards of DR Congo record the longest run of title drought. It has been over five solid decades since they last won the AFCON which was in Ethiopia in 1968 when they beat Ghana 1-0 in the final on January 21 courtesy of a 66th minute goal from Pierre Kalala Mukendi.

Koffi Tia scored the opening goal the last time Côte d’Ivoire hosted AFCON

Midfielder Koffi Tia scored the first goal of the 1984 AFCON which was hosted by Côte d’Ivoire.

The former enterprising midfielder opened the scoring in the 28th minute on March 4, 1984 at the then sold out 50,000 capacity Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan as the Elephants thrashed Togo 3-0.

Egypt records highest AFCON participation

Seven-time African champions Egypt also hold the record for the highest number of participations in the history of the AFCON competition.

This is going to be the Pharaohs 26th appearance in 34 AFCON editions.

They are closely followed by Côte d’Ivoire (25), Ghana (24), Cameroon and Tunisia (both 21).

AFCON Prize money increases

In an attempt to raise the image of competition, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) increased the prize money of the competition by 40 percent.

The previous edition held in Cameroon in 2021, saw champions Senegal receive $5 million while runners-up Egypt secured $2.5 million.

For the 34th edition in Cote d’Ivoire, the winner will now be awarded $7 million with the runners-up set to take home $4 million. Losing semi-finalists will each receive $2.5 million. The four teams that will get eliminated at the quarterfinalists will receive $1.3 million each.

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