AFCON is no doubt the most coveted and biggest football competition in Africa designed for the countries associated with the body that regulate football in Africa.
AFCON is undoubtedly the kind of crown every prominent African football players would love to win for themselves and their nation.
Since the advent of the biggest competition in Africa, which was first held in 1957, lots of great players had graced the Afcon, with some of them winning the most coveted title in Africa, while some couldn’t despite their impeccable talents and achievements outside the continent.
Below are the african stars who failed to win AFCON:
Kanu Nwankwo – (Nigeria)
The former African footballer of year who was part of the Nigeria national team from 1994-2010, making his debut for the Super Eagles against the Scandinavian side Sweden, and since his debut the former Arsenal forward went on to achieved impressive success for himself and Nigeria.
However, despite his remarkably haul of honours won for the clubs he turned out for, winnning the Champions League with a young and talented Ajax Amsterdam side in 1995, the Uefa Cup, the Premier League with Arsenal and some couple of titles won for the clubs he played for plus an Olympic Gold which he won in 1996. Ironically for Kanu he never won the Afcon despite his talent and his undoubted contribution for the national team anytime he wore the Green and White jersey.
Kanu represented the Super Eagles at three World Cups, with 86 appearances and 13 goals to his name for Nigeria during his career. He hung his boot in 2010 but his failure to conquer the continent with Nigeria remain a big dent on his fantastic career.
Michael Essien – (Ghana)
Essien’s road to greater height began at the FIFA U17 in 1999 at New Zealand where he won bronze medal for Ghana in that tournament. He also represented the Black Stars of Ghana at FIFA World Youth Championship in 2001 and since then the former Chelsea midfield maestro has gone on to represent Ghana in bigger tournament.
He made his senior debut for the Black Stars at the Afcon in 2002 which was his first outing for Ghana, but in 2008 at the Afcon he turned in a greater performance driving the team to the semi finals with his box to box performances, compared to what he served the fans at the Afcon in 2002.
Despite winning the Champions League, the Premier League and some couples of titles with Chelsea and Lyon before he moved to London. Unfortunately Essien injuries and loss of form at the latter part of his career, perhaps contributed to the reasons why the former Chelsea midfielder couldn’t win the biggest tournament on the continent.
Didier Drogba – (Ivory Coast)
The former Chelsea legend had an illustrious career with Chelsea and to some extent with Marseille during the early stage of his career, he won the biggest club competition in Europe with the Blue Army, the EPL and other titles and as that he went on to became one of biggest player for the London side.
However, despite been the Afcon’s top scorer in 2012, he never get to win the biggest title on the continent and he retired before the Elephants triumphant outing in Equatorial Guinea in 2015. Had it been he didn’t retired perhaps winning the Afcon could have been the iceing on the cake of the former Chelsea legend.
Drogba also took part in Ivory’s Coast massive three World Cup outing, which includes their first outing and first qualification in 2006 in Germany, unfortunately for Didier, he couldn’t lead his team to the latter stage of the tournament.
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El Hadji Diouf – Senegal
The former Bolton Wanderers forward and two time African footballer of the year came close to winning the most coveted title in Africa despite all odds, but lost agonisely to Cameroon at the touhhdrnament in 2002 via penalties after 120 mintues of cagey football on that day.
Diouf scored over 24 goals in 70 appearances for the Teranga Lion of Senegal during his international career, however all of those fantastic outing with Senegal didn’t only came rossy. It’s all came with one controversy or the other which led to him been banned for five years in 2011 after reacting angrily to claims that he had failed to attend a disciplinary hearing.
Since what Diouf and the breathtaking team of that year did at the Afcon no other Senegalese team has ever come close in achieveing that feat of togetherness, team cohesion and the doggedness of a great team that really wants to achieve success with the attack led by Diouf one of the best player of his generation. However Diouf’s dream of winning the most lucrative competition in Africa was extinguished by Cameroon led by the then captain Rigobet Song.
Sammy Kuffour – (Ghana)
Kuffour did had an illustrious career with the German side Bayern Munich winning the Champions League, the Bundesliga and other titles available in Germany, but ironically the defense marshall never won the Afcon despite all of his achievements in Europe for the Baverian.
The former Bayern Munich defender also represented Ghana at the 2006 World Cup, meanwhile his career was winding down by the time the Ghanaian were on their consecutive run of Afcon semi finals appearances, which perhaps he could have led Ghana into winning the Afcon title during those consecutive runs of semis with a bit of luck against their opponents.
Kuffour inability to win the most coveted title in Africa doesn’t make him a bad player, but had it been he won the title, that would have been a great plus on his illustrious career for club and his dear country as one of the best defender ever to play for Ghana, as such the search for Afcon triumph continue for Ghana in this era.
Emmanuel Adebayor – (Togo)
The former Manchester City and Arsenal forward has been the most successful, important, and popular Togolese player for many years and by far the most illustrious footballer ever to emerged from the country despite been born originally in Nigeria.
The nomadic footballer represented Togo at the 2006 World Cup in Germany which was the country’s first outing. In 2013 he led his team to the Afcon quarterfinal in South Africa which was their best performance till date.
Although winning the Afcon has been a great hurdle for Adebayor and Togo, but then that doesn’t stop the lanky forward from achieveing success in his career by getting to final of the Champions League in 2003-04 with Monaco, winning a Copa Del Rey with Madrid, winning the BBC African Players of the year in 2007 plus BBC Goal of the Season and winning the African Player of the year in 2008.
Freddie Kanuote – (Mali)
When talking about a great generation of footballers ever to don the jersey of Mali, no doubt the Malian team led by the like of Mamadou Sissoko, Mamadou Diarra, Seydou Keita, Mamady Sidibe and Kanuote are definitely a great generation. However these great set of players has no Afcon to show for which could have cemented their greatness on the continent, but then that doesn’t undermine their talents as one of African best.
The former African footballer of year who was joint top goalscorer for Mali at the 2004 Afcon led his team to the semi finals where they lost to the Atlas Lion of Morocco, despite the array of stars in the team in 2010 Kanuote called it quit following Mali elimination at the Afcon as their records of not winning the title continued and the players legandary status were gone unfulfilled.
No doubt the former Sevilla and UEFA Cup winner remain on top of the list of Malian heroes to ever played for Mali, unfortunately for him Kanuote’s goals couldn’t take Mali to the promise land and put them in the history of African countries to ever won the title and to also made his career all round a success.
Mustapha Hadji – (Morocco)
Hadji is no doubt one of the finest footballer ever to come out from the continent, a joy to watch anytime his on the field of play either for his country or club side. Hadji is definitely a shining light in the golden generation of Moroccan football, the former captain was so good that he beat Okocha to second place in the race for Africa’s Best in 1998 when they were both in the peak of their career.
However, despite the cohesion of the exhuberant Moroccan side he led, with one of the best defender Nurudinne Naybet in Africa in the team, the Atlas Lion and Mustapha Hadji never managed a triumph at the Afcon till he hung his boot.
Mustapha Hadji was truly talented, good and special, he had everything the Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Zinedine Zidane and the Pochettino of this world would want in a player in the attacking third of a team. With bag of tricks and a eye for goal, but how he and his colleagues failed to win the Afcon for Morocco still remain a mystery despite the array of talents they possesed during that golden generation.
Abedi Ayew Pele – (Ghana)
Abedi led a talented Ghanaian team to the 1992 Afcon final against Ivory Coast in Senegal, but he never got to play in the final due to the silly yellow card he picked up in their semi finals victory against Nigeria, where he was named man of the match for the Black Stars of Ghana.
During the final match, Ivrory Coast won the Afcon as Abedi could only watched his team played from the stand as the llertagic Black Stars laboured to conjure an electrifying moment in front of goal in the absence of their talisman and skipper of the team in Senegal.
Since he lost out on winning what could have been one of the best title he could ever won, such chance has never again presented itself to Abedi Ayew on the continent till he called it quit for the Black Stars of Ghana.
Kalusha Bwalya – (Zambia)
Fate kept Bwalya alive when his team were involved in a plane crash that took the entire life of every players on board and the management in 1993 when the plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in Gabon. However the sad event which happened to the Chipolopolo didn’t stopped them from picking up their pieces as Bwalya took up the mantle of spearheading the national team the following year to the Afcon final in Tunis where they lost to eventual champion Nigeria.
The Chipoloppolo were in the peak of their career during that time with great players to boost off, as they went on to finished in 3rd place at the next Afcon edition in South Africa, with the talisman and skipper of the team winning the golden boot award as the top goalscorer at the competition.
In 2012, fate smiles on Chipoloppolo, as they went on to conquered the continent, but unfortunately the triumphant Zambian team did that only after the legend had retired his playing boots after trying to achieved that for many years during his career.
George Weah – (Liberia)
Weah magical moment in the European leagues is definitely one of those moments young African would want to watch and learn from, as he’s still regarded by many as one of the finest footballer the World and Africa has ever seen because of his illustrious career in Europe.
The former Liberia captain was the only African player ever to win the Ballon d’Or in 1995, and he also led Liberia to two Afcon, but he couldn’t dragged them into winning the continental trophy despite his talent as success at the International level proved to be a tall order for the former AC Milan forward.
Weah 13 goals in 53 appearances for his country couldn’t take them beyond the group stage on both occasions in 1996 and 2002, as success on the continent has been a tough one for the Liberian team and Weah. Perhaps had it been he won the biggest trophy on the continent couple with the fact that he was the only African ever to win the Ballon D’Or he could have been referred to as the best or biggest player on the continent.