president world cup.jpgAs Zimbabwe joins the rest of Africa in celebrating the Africa Day in the year of the World Cup on African soil, it is important that Africa recalls the value of football which acted probably as the first unifier of African countries in the formation of the Confederation of African Football in 1956.

 

While it is believed that the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on 25 May 1963 was the first attempt to unify the African continent, it is enlightening to note that it was the game of football that made the first move to bring Africa together.

 

Way before African countries sat down to form the OAU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; football had already reflected its power of nation building.

 

In 1956, seven delegates met in Lisbon Portugal, to discuss the idea of constructing an African Union for football and a

championship in which all countries of the continent would compete.

 

This saw the birth of the first tournament a year later that was supposed to include four teams only: Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and South Africa. But because of its apartheid policies, South Africa was expelled from the tournament leaving only three teams Egypt, Ethiopia and hosts Sudan taking part.

Egypt became the inaugural winners in 1957 and won again in 1959. The three played the first two tournaments in odd years before it increased to four, six, eight, 12 and then 16 teams.

 

In 1962, a year before the formation of the OAU the tournament was held in Ethiopia and witnessed the participation of new countries such as Tunisia and Uganda for the first time. In the final of this tournament between Egypt and Ethiopia, it was the first time in the history of the cup that a match would reach an extra time before Ethiopia won 4-2 at the end.

It was no coincidence that Ethiopia was host to the 1962 tournament as a year later, African states gathered in Addis Ababa to form the OAU which later became the African Union.

Africa Day continued to be marked in sport and in Zimbabwe there used to be the Africa Day trophy which used to be competed for by local teams.

So as Zimbabwe commemorates Africa Day this year, football will stand out as the best winner especially after the World Cup which will be staged on African soil this June.

47 years down the line, as the continent celebrates Africa Day, it is time to realize that it was football which made the first step to unify the motherland. Perhaps the power of sport especially football is best captured by the fact that African football’s mother body.

 

CAF has more membership than the African Union in the same way FIFA has 16 more members than the United Nations.