Politics and controversies: South Africa's victory in the 1996 African Cup of Nations

Politics and controversies: South Africa’s victory in the 1996 African Cup of Nations

From January 9 to February 6, Cameroon will host the 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations. Ahead of this first major sporting event of the season, go back to the 1996 African Cup of Nations, an event that sparked many controversies.

He can move from Kenya to South Africa

If this happened CAN 1996 in South Africa (from January 19 to February 3), it was because the Confederation of African Football (CAF) decided to withdraw the organization in Kenya in December 1994. The Kenya Football Association criticized the Kenyan government for delaying in releasing funds to improve stadiums and infrastructure infrastructure.

It must be said that for the first time in its history, CAN had to compete with sixteen teams instead of twelve, which complicated Kenya’s task.

2006 Global Target for South Africa

But this decision to replace Kenya with South Africa for financial reasons was also politically motivated. With the end of apartheid in 1992, South Africa could once again participate in international competitions. This is the first time that South Africa has participated in the African Cup of Nations since they failed to qualify for the 1994 edition.

By appointing South Africa, Issa Hayatou, the CAF president who made no secret of his intention to be elected president of FIFA in 1998, sent a powerful message to his opponents.

For its part, South Africa had hoped to convince FIFA that it could organize the World Cup in 2006. “Our aim is to win the Africa Cup of Nations and manage it professionally to show that we have the ability to host the World Cup in 2006.”Solomon Morewa, president of the South African Football Association (SAFA) said at the time.

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Ironically, neither Hayatou nor South Africa will achieve their goal. Sepp Blatter will be elected FIFA President in 1998, Germany will be chosen as the host country for the 2006 World Cup, and South Africa will have to wait until 2010 to host the first football event.

Nigeria withdraws

Several weeks before the start of CAN 1996, a diplomatic brawl broke out between South Africa and Nigeria after writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Mosop), was executed by hanging on November 10, 1995. ) as well as eight other activists of this movement.

South African President Nelson Mandela has decided to lead a campaign targeting Nigeria to call for an oil embargo in protest of these executions.

On Saturday 30 January 1995, Nigeria’s Minister of Sports, Jim Nobudu, announced the withdrawal of the Super Eagles, claiming that their selection could not benefit from optimal safety conditions.

The problem is that Nigeria was the defending champion and had just shone the colors of the African continent in the 1994 World Cup, and reached the round of 16. For this package, Nigeria will be suspended for two years by CAF and thus will miss the 1998 Africa Cup of Nations.

South Africa is not very fair…

So the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations happened with fifteen teams, not sixteen. And in sporting terms, the victory of South Africa, who finished first in their group, then eliminated Algeria (quarter-finals, 2-1) and Ghana (semi-finals, 2-1) final, 3-0) before beating Tunisia in the final ( 2-0) marred by a lack of integrity and sporting ethics.

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South Africa played all of their matches at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg while their opponents increased their cross-country travels.

Thus, the day before the semi-final match against South Africa, the Ghanaians, who had played the quarter-final in Port Elizabeth, had to arrive at the FNB Stadium by minibus for their nightly training in an enclosed stadium. Oddly enough, the bus for them arrived an hour late. As for the Tunisians, who played the semi-finals in Durban, the semi-finalists were accommodated in a hotel under construction …

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These strange facts recalled the events of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which was organized and won by South Africa again. France’s completely correct attempt in the semi-final was denied while the New Zealanders were all victims of stomach aches before losing in the final to South Africa…

Despite many controversies, CAN 1996 is remembered as the victory of South Africa, which allowed Nelson Mandela to celebrate the unity of his country, four years after the end of apartheid.

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