Akpeyi continues Chiefs’ AFCON tradition

Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi will ensure that Chiefs’ tradition of having some representation at the Africa Cup of Nations will continue, when the 33rd edition of Africa’s showpiece event kicked off in Cameroon on Sunday with the hosts taking on Burkina Faso in the opening game. Akpeyi is a member of the Super Eagles team in Cameroon and will be looking to go further than his team did at the last tournament, when he was part of the Nigerian squad that ended third.

The Chiefs net minder is part of a talented Super Eagles squad who will be aiming for their fourth title and first since 2013. Akpeyi’s inclusion in the Nigeria squad means that Chiefs have since the 1996 tournament only ever not had a representative at the 2010 and 2012 tournaments. Otherwise in 12 of the last 14 AFCON tournaments there has been a Chiefs player as a squad member. Bafana Bafana’s finest hour in 1996 was highlighted by the contributions of two former Chiefs legends.

Neil Tovey held aloft the African Unity trophy at FNB Stadium in 1996 while Doctor Khumalo was a crucial part of Clive Barker’s Bafana Bafana setting Mark Williams up in the final against Tunisia. Two years later when Bafana Bafana ended up as runners up in 1998, Brian Baloyi played a big part featuring in five matches as a young Bafana Bafana team with Thabo Mooki also playing went all the way to the final.

Siyabonga Nomvethe was Chiefs’ sole representative at the 2000 AFCON where he became the first Chiefs player to score in the competition. His lone strike in a 1-0 quarterfinal win knocked co-hosts Ghana out of the competition. He scored again later in the tournament in the third-place play-off as South Africa eventually defeated Tunisia on penalties with the full-time score at 2-2. At the 2002 tournament in Mali, Brian Baloyi was again part of the squad but did not feature.

Chiefs had a large contingent in South Africa’s squad in Tunisia in 2004 with five players in the Bafana Bafana squad. Patrick Mayo scored in a 1-1 draw in Bafana’s final group game. History was made elsewhere for Chiefs by a matter of hours Kabamba Musasa became the first Chiefs player at the competition to represent a country other than South Africa. When he came on as a substitute in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s loss to Guinea, he featured just ahead of Tinashe Nengomasha who played for Zimbabwe as they made their tournament debut in a 2-1 loss to Egypt. Both those games happening on the 25th January 2004.

When the competition headed to Egypt in 2006, Jimmy Tau was Chiefs’ sole representative in the Bafana Bafana squad but there was history as two Chiefs players came up against each other for the first time in the competition. With Zimbabwe defeating Ghana at the group stages,  Tinashe Nengomasha featured while former Chiefs striker Louis Agyemang was an unused substitute for the Black Stars.

A young Itumeleng Khune and Siphiwe Tshabalala made it to Ghana in 2008. With Bafana Bafana not reaching the 2010 and 2012 events, Chiefs would be represented by seven players at the 2013 tournament held in South Africa. Bafana Bafana would exit the competition at the quarterfinal stage, and in 2015 Mandla Masango scored one of the goals of the tournament in South Africa’s final group game a 2-1 loss to Ghana. He was joined in the Bafana Bafana squad at the competition by Bernard Parker, Erick Mathoho and Reneilwe Letsholonyane.

At the last two tournaments in 2017, Willard Katsande was in the Zimbabwe team who exited at the group stages, while in 2019 Chiefs had players in four different teams Teenage Hadebe and Khama Billiat were with Zimbabwe, Daniel Akpeyi ended in third with Nigeria while Andriamirado Andrianarimanana featured for Madagascar as they reached the quarterfinals in their tournament debut. Bafana Bafana who defeated hosts Egypt in the last 16 had Bruce Bvuma, Daniel Cardoso and Ramahlwe Mphahlele in their squad.

Nigeria are drawn in Group D with Egypt, Sudan and Guinea Bissau. They will open up their tournament against seven-time winners Egypt on 11 January and will then come up against Sudan and Guinea Bissau. They will play all their games in Garoua.