After a glittering opening ceremony in Yaounde on Sunday (Jan. 9) evening, host nation Cameroon started their campaign to win the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) for the sixth time by beating Burkina Faso by two goals to one, courtesy of two first half penalty kicks scored by team captain Vincent Aboubakar.
But apart from the fame of winning Africa’s most prestigious international soccer competition, Cameroon and the 23 other competing nations are hoping to get cash rewards for their efforts. And thanks to a review of the prize money by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) last weekend, the winners of this year’s Afcon will get $500,000 more than was awarded last time.
Teams will earn more for winning Afcon 2021
This year’s Afcon—which was moved from 2021 due to the effects of the covid-19 pandemic on Cameroon’s ability to organize it—will be contested by 24 teams after CAF allowed eight more teams at the last edition in 2019. This change in the biennial tournament led to a review in prize money; champions Algeria received $4.5 million while runners-up Senegal got $2.5 million.
CAF decided to further increase these cash prizes at its executive meeting on Jan. 7. After this year’s final match on Feb. 6, the winner will receive $5 million while the second best team will get $2.75 million. There are also increases for the six other teams that qualify for the quarter final stage. As in previous years, teams that are knocked out before the quarter finals will not receive cash from CAF.
African soccer’s prize money lags behind others
A total of $1.85 million will be added to the cash rewards for this year’s Afcon.
On one hand, CAF could be praised for increasing the pot of money available at each of the last three Afcons. Many African players take a mid-season leave from their club sides in Europe to participate at Afcon. Not all players show up at the tournament for the money; for example, Egypt’s star striker Mohamed Salah earns £200,000 ($272,000) a week at Liverpool and is reportedly negotiating a new contract to possibly double that. But increasing the rewards at Afcon sends a message to players, national soccer federations, and the sporting world at large that Africa takes its football seriously.
Yet, Africa’s showpiece soccer event which binds a continent of 1 billion people remains behind similar international competitions.
Italy, winners of the European Championships in July 2021, received €10,000,000 from the European Football Association (UEFA) while runners-up England got €7,000,000 (these don’t include cash awards for winning matches leading up to the final.) The Copa America, the equivalent tournament in South America, gives $6.5 million to the champions and $3.5 million to the second best team.
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