Why is AFCON every two years? Reason for Africa Cup of Nations schedule explained

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Unlike the European Championship, the Africa Cup of Nations is held every two years despite it being a continental tournament.

This year’s event will get underway on January 13 and is being hosted in the Ivory Coast. The original plan was to have the event be played in June of 2023, but that was changed due to the West African nation’s wet weather in the summer and early autumn.

It was feared that the rainy season could have caused problems for the integrity of the tournament and therefore the games have been moved to January and February of 2024. It will still be called the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, however, meaning the biennial scheduling of the AFCON is maintained.

But why is the competition held every two years and not every four, as is traditionally the case for the Euros, Copa America and AFC Asian Cup? The Sporting News takes a look. 

MORE: Which Premier League team is missing the most players due to AFCON & Asia Cup?

Why is AFCON every two years?

The tournament stands out as the Confederation of African Football’s (CAF) primary revenue generator, with Patrice Motsepe, the president of CAF, emphasising its crucial financial importance. Motsepe has previously expressed that the organisation “needs the money”.

In 2020, FIFA president Gianni Infantino suggested the tournament be held quadrennially like the Euros. “I propose to organise the Africa Cup of Nations every four years rather than two years,” he said. “The CAN [Africa Cup of Nations] generates 20 times less than the Euros. Having a CAN every two years, is that good at the commercial level? Has this developed the infrastructure? Think about spending it every four years.

“We have been talking about the development of African football for many years. Pele once said that an African team would win the FIFA World Cup, but this hasn’t happened and it seems we are not making progress.

“I think it’s time to stop talking about the development of African football, and take actions. No African team has won the World Cup. And there is an impression Africa is going backwards.”

A year later, Motsepe was referred to the FIFA president’s comments regarding the timing of the Africa Cup of Nations and he said: “This is one area where there are different views among different people. I have no doubt it has to be every two years.

Motsepe insisted the money generated by the AFCON taking place every two years was essential to the growth of the confederation. “I have no doubt in my mind that I am not going to be president of an organisation which four years from now has not had significant, tangible, practical, assessable progress — it is not going to happen,” he said.

Who has won the most Africa Cup of Nations titles?

Egypt have been the dominant nation in Africa Cup of Nations history with The Pharaohs winning seven titles including the first edition of the competition back in 1957.

Six other nations have won the trophy more than once with an overall total of 15 winners of the tournament.

AFCON winners
Rank Nation AFCON titles Years won
1. Egypt 7 1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008, 2010
2. Cameroon 5 1984, 1988, 2000, 2002, 2017
3. Ghana 4 1963, 1965, 1978, 1982
4. Nigeria 3 1980, 1994, 2013
5. Ivory Coast 2 1992, 2015
= Algeria 2 1990, 2019
= DR Congo 2 1968, 1974
8. Zambia 1 2012
= Tunisia 1 2004
= Sudan 1 1970
= Senegal 1 2021
= Ethiopia 1 1962
= Morocco 1 1976
= South Africa 1 1996
= Congo 1 1972

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