Ivory Coast / Côte d’Ivoire
- Capital: Yamoussoukro
- Population: 26,378,300 (2020 estimate)
- Official Languages: French
- Regional Languages: Abron, Agni, Baoulé, Bété, Cebaara, Dyula, Senufo
- Men’s Team Nicknames: Les Éléphants (The Elephants)
- Women’s Team Nicknames: Les Éléphants (The Elephants)
- Association: Fédération Ivoirienne de Football (FIF)
- Top Male Domestic League: Ligue 1
- Top Female Domestic League: Women’s Championship
- FIFA Code: CIV
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Group Stage (2006, 2010, 2014)
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Group Stage (2015)
- Best AFCON Result (Men): WINNERS (1992, 2015)
- Best AFCON Result (Women): Third Place (2014)
- Best CHAN Result (Men): Third Place (2016)
- Best Olympics Result (Men): Bronze Medal (1992)
- Best Olympics Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best WAFU Nations Cup Result (Men): Semi-Finals (2019)
- Best WAFU Zone B Nations Cup Result (Women): Finalists (2018, 2019)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 12th (February 2013, April-May 2013)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 59th (March 2017)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 75th (March-May 2004)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 136th (December 2011)
- Most Capped Player: Didier Zokora – 123 caps
- Top Scorer: Didier Drogba – 65 goals
Introduction & Brief History
The Republic of Côte d’Ivoire / République de Côte d’Ivoire, also known in English as the Ivory Coast, is a country situated on the Atlantic Ocean coastline of West Africa. The country has a southern coastline on the Gulf of Guinea, with its largest city of Abidjan being a key port in the region, and it has a number of land borders with neighbouring countries; Liberia and Guinea to the west of the country, Mali to the northwest, Burkina Faso to the northeast, and Ghana to the east. Originally a French colony within French West Africa, it gained its independence in 1960. In the same year, the current football association, the Fédération Ivoirienne de Football (FIF) was founded for the new country, with Côte d’Ivoire becoming a full member of FIFA in 1964 and CAF in 1965. Côte d’Ivoire’s first recognised match as an independent nation came in 1960 when they beat another newly-liberated former French colony in the form of Dahomey (now Benin) 3-2 in Madagascar.
The Ivorian national team qualified for their first African Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament in 1965 and qualified for the next two editions in 1968 and 1970, ensuring an initial 100% qualification record for the new country. During that time they achieved two successive third-place finishes in both 1965 and 1968, and then a fourth-place finish in 1970. However, the 1970s and 1980s would be an unsuccessful period for Ivorian football with the team either not qualifying for the tournament, or barely advancing out of the group stage, with the only highlight coming in the 1986 tournament when they achieved yet another third-place finish. It wouldn’t be until the early 1990s when the Côte d’Ivoire national team finally made an impact on African football when it claimed its first AFCON championship. In the 1992 tournament held in Senegal, they beat Zambia and Cameroon in the knockout stages, before overcoming Ghana in a mammoth penalty shootout by winning 11-10 to finally become African champions.
However, Côte d’Ivoire’s golden period came in the late 2000s and early 2010s when a talented generation of players progressed into the national team. Fuelled by the number of excellent academies that had been established in the country which developed quality players, as well as utilising the diaspora based in France, Côte d’Ivoire found themselves with a ‘golden generation’ of players, of which a lot was expected from them. The first glimmer of its potential came in the 2006 AFCON tournament when the team finished ahead of Morocco at the group stage to qualify for the knockout stage, from where they defeated Cameroon and Nigeria to reach their second-ever final. Alas, they were unable to lift the trophy when they lost on penalties to Egypt. The combination of Côte d’Ivoire, finals, and penalties would be a regular combination within this competition’s history…
During this ‘golden era’, the Ivorian national team would also qualify for their first World Cup finals when they reached the 2006 World Cup. It would start a run of three consecutive World Cup qualifications for Les Éléphants, however, despite the team’s obvious potential with many of its players starring for Europe’s top clubs, the side always failed to progress beyond the group stage. They were drawn in very difficult groups in 2006 and 2010, but were disappointed not to progress from a favourably looking group in 2014. Sadly, this would be a common occurrence throughout this period where this collection of talented players would often stumble on their route to some success. They reached another AFCON final in 2012 but again they were on the wrong side of a penalty shootout, losing to a spirited Zambian squad, whilst they achieved a fourth-place finish in 2008, and only could get to the quarter-finals in the 2010 and 2013.
Just when it seemed as if the golden generation might not get the success the talent deserved, it all finally came good in the 2015 AFCON tournament. Having dispatched Algeria and DR Congo in the knockout stage, they faced Ghana in the final in a repeat of the 1992 final. Once again, the final had to be decided by a penalty shootout, and after an epic duel where every player on the pitch took a penalty, it would be ‘third time lucky’ for the Elephants as they finally claimed their second African title and gave the country and its players the football success they had all craved. History repeated itself as the Ivorians overcame the Black Stars in the AFCON final, this time winning 9-8 on penalties.
Currently, Côte d’Ivoire is the eighth-best team in CAF in accordance with the latest FIFA World Rankings, and they are scheduled to play in the forthcoming 2021/22 AFCON tournament having qualified as one of the qualification group winners. They were considered a ‘Pot 2’ team during the initial group seeding, and they have been drawn in a group alongside defending African champions Algeria, Sierra Leone, and Equatorial Guinea. They will be considered and expected to be one of the favourites to progress beyond the group stage as one of the top two teams, and will be considered as one of the contenders to win the entire tournament when looking at their 2021 form. At the time of writing, they are also competing in 2022 World Cup qualifying where they have a good opportunity to progress to the third and final round of the African format.
Côte d’Ivoire National Team
Q. Who is Côte d’Ivoire’s best player of all-time?
One of Côte d’Ivoire’s greatest-ever players, and one of the greatest-ever African strikers, is the incredibly talented target-man forward Didier Drogba. He is most famous for playing most of his illustrious career with Chelsea, where he was a crucial part of the club’s three English Premier League victories during his first phase at the club, as well as winning four FA Cups, three League Cups, and famously, the 2011-12 Champions League with the Blues. In that final, he scored the late equaliser and subsequent winning penalty in the final to give Chelsea their first UEFA Champions League title and was awarded the Man of the Match award for his impact in the final. Producing important performances and scoring crucial goals in big games would become an impressive and regular trait for Drogba, who subsequently scored ten goals in ten finals and was referred to as being the “ultimate big-game player“. To date, he is still the only player in English football history to have scored in four separate FA Cup finals, he was the very first African player to score 100 goals in the English Premier League, and finished at the league’s top goalscorer in both the 2006-07 and 2009-10 EFL seasons.
Didier Drogba is currently Les Éléphants‘ all-time top goalscorer having scored 65 goals in 105 games between 2002 and 2014, and was probably the memorable figurehead of that famous Ivorian ‘golden generation‘ that appeared in the late 2000s and early 2010s. He captained the team from 2006 until his international retirement in 2014, leading them in all three of their World Cup appearances and scoring their first-ever goal in World Cup finals history in the 2006 World Cup, scoring against Argentina in a 2-1 defeat. Drogba was also part of the Côte d’Ivoire squads who reached the finals of the 2006 and 2012 AFCON tournaments, although failed to pick up a continental winning medal on both occasions by being on the wrong side of penalty shootouts. However, Drogba’s influence extended beyond the pitch as he was pivotal in helping to end the Ivorian Civil War. Following a 2006 World Cup qualifier against Sudan which confirmed their place in their first World Cup tournament, he made an impassioned post-match speech to end the bloodshed in the country, which resulted in a cease-fire and then free elections to be made. He continued to heal divisions in the country by being pivotal in getting an Ivorian home qualifier played in the city of Bouake, a former rebel stronghold in the north of the country. Currently, he is attempting to influence Ivorian football further as he is attempting to become the FIF’s new president in forthcoming elections for the vacant role within the organisation.
During his illustrious career, he was regularly placed in the Ballon d’Or awards, finishing in fourth position in 2007, was awarded the CAF African Footballer of the Year in 2006 and 2009, as well as the BBC African Footballer of the Year in the latter year also. Furthermore, he was named in FIFPro World XI in 2007, and was crowned as the Ivorian Player of the Year on three occasions, but perhaps most importantly in his impactful football career, he helped unify a nation!
Another player who could be argued as being Côte d’Ivoire’s best-ever player is the box-to-box industrious midfielder, Yaya Touré. Having started his career domestically at the successful ASEC Mimosas, he moved to European football via the Belgian side Beveren, followed by a spell at Metalurh Donetsk in Ukraine, before moving to Greek giants Olympiakos, for whom he started creating his reputation through his performances. Touré moved to the French Ligue 1 with Monaco for a season, before famously transferring to Barcelona in 2007. It would be at the Catalan club where he galvanised his reputation as one of the world’s best midfielders and played a part in that early phase of Barça‘s conquering of European football through their tiki-taka style. He won two La Liga titles during his time there, as well as winning the 2009 UEFA Champions League final (playing as a centre-back due to injuries in defence for Barcelona) when they beat defending champions Manchester United. Curiously, it would be in Manchester where Yaya Touré would spend most of his career when he joined the revolution taking place in the blue-side of the northern English city by joining Manchester City in 2010.
During his eight-year spell with the Citizens, Touré made 230 appearances and scored 59 goals, and was a crucial component in Manchester City’s rise to becoming England’s best team once again. He scored the winning goal in the 2011 FA Cup final, ending the Sky Blues‘ 35-year wait for a major trophy and confirming his cult status at the club, before being heavily involved in City’s dramatic EFL title victory in the 2011-12 season. Yaya Touré would win a further two league titles with Manchester City, as well as two League Cups, and was nominated in the PFA Team of the Year twice during his successful tenure in Manchester.
He was also very successful during his international career with Les Éléphants, having earned himself 101 caps and scoring 19 goals from his debut in 2004 to his international retirement in 2015. As with Didier Drogba previously, he was part of that Ivorian ‘golden generation‘ and was their dynamic lynchpin in midfield, being part of their three World Cup squads for the 2006, 2010, and 2014 tournaments. He also played in six AFCON tournaments for the Ivory Coast, playing in the unsuccessful 2006 and 2012 finals, but was the captain for their successful 2015 campaign when the golden generation finally crowned their talent by finally lifting the continental trophy after overcoming Ghana, with Touré being named in that tournament’s Team of the Tournament. He is regarded as one of Africa’s greatest-ever midfielders, having won the CAF African Football of Year for four consecutive years between 2011 and 2014, named in CAF’s Team of the Year on seven occasions, named the BBC African Football of the Year twice, and also named in IFFHS CAF Men’s Team of the Decade for 2011-2020.
Q. Who is currently the best player in the national team?
Currently, I would have to say that the two best players in the Ivorian national team are probably Franck Kessié and Sébastien Haller.
Franck Kessié is a 24-year-old creative central midfielder who is currently starring for Italian giants AC Milan. He started his career at Atalanta, where he first went out on loan to Serie B side Cesena for a season, before being promoted to La Dea‘s first team in 2016 and becoming a mainstay in the starting XI. After an impressive season with the Bergamo-based club, he moved to Milan in 2017 (initially on a two-year loan before the transfer was made permanent in 2019) and has become one of Milan’s most important and creative outlets for the team, helping the Rossoneri return back to the UEFA Champions League. At the time of writing, he has made over 150 appearances for Milan and scored over 30 goals since 2017, however, it is looking increasingly likely that his tenure in Lombardy could be coming to a conclusion with rumours that he could be making a move to the English Premier League in the near future. With his current contract finishing at the end of the 2021-22 season, and reportedly his wage demands being too high for Milan’s strict wage structure, he will have many suitors from the top teams in England requesting for his future services.
Kessié has been part of the Ivorian national team for a surprisingly long period of time, making his international debut in 2014 as a 17-year-old whilst he was still part of Atalanta’s youth team and had yet to make his senior club debut. He was involved in Côte d’Ivoire’s squad and started all three group games for the disappointing 2017 AFCON tournament campaign, whilst he had a more successful 2019 AFCON tournament where he finished as the tournament’s joint-top assist provider as Les Éléphants reached the quarter-finals. Currently, he has made 50 appearances for the national team and scored five goals, with two of them coming in 2021. He also played in this summer’s Olympics tournament as one of the team’s three overage players, playing in all four games as the Ivorians reached the quarter-finals of the tournament held in Japan.
Sébastien Haller is a 27-year-old forward who is currently plying his trade with the Dutch champions, Ajax of Amsterdam, and is one of European football’s most lethal strikers in current form. He started his career at Auxerre, before moving to the Eredivisie and playing for Utrecht, where he scored 41 goals in 82 appearances in a two and a half year stay with the Domstedelingen. His goalscoring exploits caught the eye of Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt who paid €12m in 2017, making him their then record signing. However, the big investment was a sound one for die Adler as his goals contributed to their DFB-Pokal victory in 2018 (their first cup victory in 30 years), and he scored 15 goals in 29 appearances for Eintracht, forming a lethal partnership with young Serbian striker Luka Jović. His performances encouraged West Ham United to cough up a club-record fee of £45m for his services in 2019, although his stay at the London club was disappointing, struggling to find form at a club that was also going through a difficult period. Eventually, at the start of 2021, he moved back to the Netherlands to Ajax for a price of €22,5m, and despite a rough start (where Ajax forgot to register him for their UEFA Europa League squad), he has been in lethal form for the Amsterdammers, scoring 17 goals in 28 appearances, including four goals against Sporting Clube de Portugal in this season’s UEFA Champions League, becoming for the first player to score four goals in his UCL debut since Marco van Basten in 1992.
French-born Haller had originally committed to his country of birth, representing France at every youth team level from under 16s to under 21s, including playing for France in the 2011 U17 World Cup. However, in November 2020 he committed to playing for the country of his mother, making his Ivorian debut against Madagascar in the 2021 AFCON qualifiers and scoring the winning goal in a 2-1 victory. Haller has currently scored three goals in his first six international appearances. However, should he continue to bring his excellent club form into the international arena, then he should score plenty of goals for the Ivory Coast for many years to come. He will certainly be one of the strikers to watch in the upcoming AFCON tournament…
Q. Who could be considered as the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
There are a number of talented young Ivorians who have currently broken into the national team that could be worth keeping an eye on in the next few years to see whether they fulfill their potential. Here are four players to focus on:
- Odilon Kossounou – 20-year-old centre-back currently with German side Bayer Leverkusen. Another product of the ASEC Mimosas academy, he started his professional career with Swedish side Hammarby IF before moving to Belgian side Club Brugge in 2019. After impressing in the Belgian Pro League with his excellent defensive displays and high tackle success ratio, and subsequently winning a league championship medal with the Blauw-Zwart, he moved to his current club this summer for a reported fee of €23m. He made his international debut in October 2020 and has made four appearances for Côte d’Ivoire.
- Sinaly Diomandé – 20-year-old defender currently with French side Olympique Lyonnais. A product of the Jean-Marc Guillou Academy in Abidjan, he moved to Guidars FC in Mali before moving to his current club in September 2019 for a reported €550k. Originally playing for the Lyon II side, he was promoted to the senior side in 2020 and has been a regular for l’OL ever since. He also made his international debut in October 2020 and has earned himself seven caps and become a regular starter for Les Éléphants.
- Wilfried Singo – Another 20-year-old right back or centre-back who currently plays for Italian side Torino. He started at AS Denguélé’s academy before moving to his current club in the summer of 2018. After a couple of years in Torino’s youth team, he made his Serie A debut in June 2020 and has become a regular starter in the Granata first team. He also played in all four games in this summer’s Olympics football tournament for Les Éléphants and made his senior debut in June 2021 in the friendly against Burkina Faso.
- Amad Diallo – 19-year-old winger who currently plays for Manchester United. Originally born in the Ivory Coast, he emigrated to Italy at a young age and started his career in Italian youth teams before being picked up by Atalanta in 2015. After playing in the youth teams, he made his senior debut for the Bergamo side in October 2019 and scored just four minutes into his debut to become the first player born in 2002 to score in Serie A. Manchester United were suitably impressed with his prospects that they paid a reported €25m-€40m for him, with the player joining the Red Devils in January 2021, although he has seen his senior appearances restricted since his move. He made his senior debut in March 2021 against Niger, and is another player who played in all four games of the Olympic tournament campaign.
Q. What is the current state/performance of the Ivorian national team?
The results of the Ivorian national team in 2021:
- 26th Mar [2021 AFCONQ]: Niger (n) 3-0
- 30th Mar [2021 AFCONQ]: Ethiopia (h) 3-1
- 5th June [Friendly]: Burkina Faso (h) 2-1
- 12th June [Friendly]: Ghana (a) 0-0
- 3rd Sept [2022 WCQ]: Mozambique (a) 0-0
- 6th Sept [2022 WCQ]: Cameroon (h) 2-1
- 8th Oct [2022 WCQ]: Malawi (a) 3-0
- 11th Oct [2022 WCQ]: Malawi (h) 2-1
The current performance of the Ivorian team is very good, and much more promising than it was two years ago. Since French coach Patrice Beaumelle, the former assistant to Hervé Renard who led the Elephants to the 2015 AFCON title, took charge of the team in February 2020, the results and performances have drastically improved for Côte d’Ivoire. In his twelve games in charge, they have only lost once in a 1-0 friendly defeat to Japan in November 2020, but are currently on a ten-game unbeaten streak and are unbeaten throughout the whole of 2021. After being left a difficult start in the 2021 AFCON qualifiers, Beaumelle managed to recover the position for Ivory Coast to ensure they successfully qualified for their ninth successive African Cup of Nations. In addition, they look in a favorable position to progress to the final stage of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup. Despite starting their campaign with a disappointing goalless draw at Mozambique, a 2-1 home win against their main group rivals Cameroon, plus consecutive wins over Malawi has put Les Éléphants in the pole position to advance to the next stage. All they need to do is to match or better Cameroon’s result in their next group game in mid-November, and then not lose to them in the crucial final group game away in Cameroon, to win the group. A tough assignment but certainly possible with this group of players!
- FIFA’s Highlights of Côte d’Ivoire vs. Cameroon in October 2021: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rK-SuLwqKM
Should Côte d’Ivoire manage to win their second-round group, you would have to back their chances of qualifying for their fourth World Cup considering their current form. They are certainly one of the in-form sides in African football at the moment.
Q. Looking at Côte d’Ivoire’s international history, what has been the best game, result, or performance for the representative team?
Côte d’Ivoire’s best performance was in the 2015 African Cup of Nations which was held in Equatorial Guinea. It was regarded as the final opportunity for the Ivorian ‘golden generation‘ to achieve some success, as, despite its wealth of talent that had been available for the national team, they had failed to add to their sole African title in 1992 by having lost in both the 2006 and 2012 finals on penalties, not to mention failing to progress beyond the group stage of their three World Cup appearances. Their star striker and leader Didier Drogba had retired from international football the previous year meaning Yaya Touré was now the captain of the team, but they were managed by one of the most successful managers in African international football, Hervé Renard, a man who led Zambia to their historic AFCON title in that 2012 final over Côte d’Ivoire.
Les Éléphants started their AFCON campaign with a 1-1 draw against Guinea, following it up with another 1-1 comeback draw against Mali with Max Gradel getting the leveler four minutes from full time. With all games in the group having been 1-1 draws, a win would confirm qualification to the knockout round and the Ivory Coast achieved it in their final group game by beating Cameroon 1-0, with Gradel again getting the crucial goal. Côte d’Ivoire finished top of their group as they were the only team to achieve a victory with every other ground fixture ending a 1-1 draw – a bizarre situation!
- CAF’s Highlights of Côte d’Ivoire vs. Cameroon in the 2015 AFCON: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnlihO3taBM
In the quarter-finals of the tournament, they faced the Group C runners-up Algeria and managed to beat the Fennecs 3-1. The then Swansea City favourite Wilfried Bony opened the scoring in the first half when he headed in Max Gradel’s cross. Algeria equalised early in the second half before Bony grabbed his brace by heading in Yaya Touré’s free-kick. The victory was confirmed in the fourth minute of injury time when Gervinho scored a rapid counter-attack goal to send Les Éléphants into the last four. In the semi-finals, they took on DR Congo, and it would be the African Orange who would take the lead through their captain Yaya Touré after just twenty minutes. DR Congo equalised four minutes later through a penalty before Gervinho scored Côte d’Ivoire’s second of the evening just before half-time. The result was confirmed on the 68th minute when Wilfried Kanon scored a rebounded effort to ensure the Ivorians progressed to their fourth AFCON final with another 3-1 victory.
- CAF’s Highlights of Côte d’Ivoire vs. DR Congo in the 2015 AFCON Semi-Final: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YINSladhd9I
The final played at Bata against Ghana (in a replay of the 1992 AFCON final) was a scrappy affair between two sides who were desperate to pick up a long-overdue AFCON title. After 120 minutes, the sides could not be split apart and penalties had to decide the winner – not a surprising development considering the Ivorians’ previous three finals had also been decided on spot-kicks. It would be a monumental tussle between the two sides with the Elephants missing their first two penalties and Ghana scoring theirs. It was looking like the 2015 final would follow the same format of 2006 and 2012 with the Ivorians failing at the penalty shootout phase once again, and Ghana gaining revenge for the 1992 final. However, with great resolve and determination, the Elephants converted their next eight penalties, with every player in the starting eleven having to take a penalty. When the Ghanaian goalkeeper Brimah Razak missed his spot-kick, it was left to his opposite number, the experienced Boubacar Barry to convert his effort and ensure the epic battle finally had a conclusion. Côte d’Ivoire won the lengthy penalty shootout 9-8, and could finally lift their second AFCON title, with manager Hervé Renard becoming the first manager to win two AFCON titles with two different countries. The golden generation had finally achieved success!!
- CAF’s Highlights of Côte d’Ivoire vs. Ghana in the 2015 AFCON Final: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jr1KUzRWRAw
Q. What is your favourite shirt from the Ivorian national team?
Côte d’Ivoire has had a number of excellent football shirts in their iconic shade of orange but my favourite has to be the Puma-made home shirt that they wore between 2018 and 2019. The shirt has a stylized pattern of an elephant on the front, obviously taking inspiration from their logo and nickname, whilst the tricolor of the country’s flag is shown in the collar of the jersey. A really nice design!
Ivorian Domestic Football
Q. What is the Ivorian football pyramid like?
At the time of writing, the Ivorian football pyramid has five levels:
- Tier 1 – Ligue 1
- Tier 2 – Ligue 2
- Tier 3 – Championnat Division 3
- Tiers 4 & 5 – Division Régionale
The top tier league in the Ivorian football pyramid is Ligue 1 which was first founded in 1960. Currently, there are 14 teams who compete in Ligue 1 who would have originally played each other home and away to produce a 26-game league campaign. However, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the league has been split into two groups of seven teams, with each club playing every team in their group twice to produce just a 12-game league season. The top two placed sides from the two groups then compete in a four-team championship group, where they play each other twice, with the winner of the championship group being declared as the Ivorian champions. The Ivorian champions then qualify for the following season’s CAF Champions League, where the champions enter the continental competition at the first qualifying round. Normally the bottom two teams in Ligue 1 are relegated to Ligue 2, and replaced by the winners of the two regional leagues, although relegation from the top flight seems to have stopped in the current COVID environment.
The main national cup competition is the Coupe de Côte d’Ivoire, and its first final was also held in 1960. The winner of the Coupe will qualify for the following season’s CAF Confederation Cup (Africa’s secondary continental club competition), and enter at the first qualifying round.
Q. Which Ivorian teams are historically the most successful?
These are the number of titles each Ivorian club has won since the first season was held in 1960:
- 27 titles: ASEC Mimosas
- 18 titles: Africa Sports
- 5 titles: Stade d’Abidjan
- 3 titles: Stella Club d’Adjamé, Séwé Sport/Séwé FC
- 2 titles: Onze Frères de Bassam, AS Tanda
- 1 title: SC Gagnoa, SO de l’Armée, Racing Club
There have been two teams that have dominated Ivorian football – ASEC Mimosas and Africa Sports. Association Sportive des Employés de Commerce Mimosas or ASEC Mimosas are based in the de facto capital of Abidjan and are the most successful team in Ligue 1 history with 27 Ivorian championships to their name. Renowned for its impressively successful academy, Les Mimos won their first league title in 1963, and had their first successful period in the early 1970s by winning four titles in a row between 1972 and 1975. However, their most prosperous era was between 1990 and 2006 where they absolutely dominated the domestic scene by winning fifteen championships of the seventeen seasons played during that period. ASEC Mimosas currently holds the world record for the most unbeaten games in a row, playing 108 domestic league and cup matches without defeat between 1989 and 1994 in an obvious sign of that time of monumental supremacy for the club. ASEC are also the current Ivorian champions having recently clinched the 2020-21 Ligue 1 title.
As their name suggests, Africa Sports d’Abidjan are also based in the de facto capital and are the cross-city rivals of ASEC. Les Aiglons are the second-most successful team in Ligue 1 history with 18 titles, which includes the national championship in 1956 when the country was still under French control. Their preeminent position occurred during the 1980s when they won seven titles in eight seasons between 1982 and 1989, although league success has been hampered in recent years due to ASEC’s trophy haul in the 1990s and 2000s. Despite successfully adding to their league tally in the mid-2000s, their last league championship occurred in 2011.
Another Abidjan team is the third-most successful team in the league’s history with Stade d’Abidjan having won five Ivorian championships. They were one of the early powerhouses of Ivorian domestic football, by winning their first title in 1962, and then adding further titles in 1963, 1965, 1966, and finally in 1969. Sadly since their heydays of the 1960s, their stature in Abidjan and Ivorian football has been surpassed by the two clubs mentioned previously, and they currently find themselves in the second tier of Ivorian football.
Below are the number of Coupes de Côte d’Ivoire that have been won by each team since the first final was held in 1960:
- 20 cups: ASEC Mimosas
- 17 cups: Africa Sports
- 5 cups: Stade d’Abidjan
- 3 cups: Stella Club d’Adjamé
- 1 cup: Espoir de Man, Jeunesse Club d’Abidjan, RC Daloa, ASC Bouaké, ASI Abengourou, SOA, Alliance Bouaké, CO Bouaflé, Issia Wazy, Séwé Sport/Séwé FC, FC San Pédro
In terms of the Coupe de Côte d’Ivoire, it’s the same three teams mentioned previously who are the most successful in the national cup competition. ASEC Mimosas have the most cup victories with twenty, and last won it in 2018, whilst Africa Sports are three cups behind in their tally and last won the competition in 2017. Unlike their league victories all coming in the 1960s, Stade d’Abidjan’s five cup wins have been spread out throughout the decades with their first coming in 1971 and their most recent cup win in 2000. The most recent ‘new’ winner of the Coupe was FC San Pédro who won their first major trophy by clinching the 2019 final after beating AFAD Djékanou by the game’s only goal.
Ivorian clubs have also been very successful in CAF-organised continental competitions. The aforementioned Stade d’Abidjan became the first Ivorian club to achieve continental success during their 1960s hegemony when they claimed the 1966 African Cup of Champions (the forebearer to the current CAF Champions League) by beating Malian club Real Bamako 5-4 on aggregate after extra time. ASEC Mimosas has also been crowned as African champions when they lifted the trophy in 1998 by beating Zimbabwean side Dynamos Harare 4-2 on aggregate. Africa Sports have also reached the final of the African Cup of Champions when they played in the 1986 showcase but were incredibly unfortunate not to become continental champions when they lost on penalties to Egyptian side Zamalek after drawing 2-2 on aggregate.
Although they have been unable to lift African club football’s biggest prize, Africa Sports have lifted some continental trophies by winning two African Cup Winners’ Cups. They won the 1992 edition of the now-defunct competition when they beat the Burundian side Vital’O FC 5-1 after two legs and then repeated the feat in 1999 when they overcame Tunisian side Club Africain 2-1 on aggregate. Africa Sports also reached two further finals in 1980 and 1993 but were on losing efforts to TP Mazembe (DR Congo) and Al Ahly (Egypt) respectively. There has been a further Ivorian final appearance in the competition’s history when Stella Club d’Adjamé got to the inaugural final in 1975 but lost 5-1 to Tonnerre Yaoundé (Cameroon), although Stella Club has achieved some continental success when they lifted the second-ever CAF Cup in 1993 by beating Tanzanian club Simba SC 2-0 on aggregate. Since the African Cup Winners’ Cup and CAF Cup merged into the CAF Confederation Cup in 2004, there has been a further Ivorian final appearance when San-Pédro-based club Séwé FC fought its way to the final of the 2014 final of the CCC. Sadly their dreams of lifting the trophy of Africa’s secondary club competition were harshly ripped away from them when they lost on away goals to Al Ahly, with the Egyptians scoring the winning goal in the sixth minute of injury time in the second leg.
Q. Who are currently the best teams in the country?
As mentioned earlier, the current league champions are ASEC Mimosas, who claimed their 27th title in the 2020-21 season. In this unique format for Ivorian football with the two groups of seven teams, Les Jaunes et Noirs finished second in their group, two points behind the Société Omnisports de l’Armée (SOA) who are based in the capital of Yamoussoukro, with both sides progressing to the Championship Phase of the season. They were joined by Academie de Foot Amadou Diallo de Djékanou (AFAD Djékanou) who won the other group, and the 2019-20 Ligue 1 runners-up FC San Pédro who finished in second position and six points behind AFAD Djékanou.
In the Championship Phase, it was an incredibly tight contest between four teams of an equal standard. Going into the final round of matches, it would be either ASEC Mimosas or San Pédro with a chance of lifting the Ivorian championship, and the two group runners-up would play each other on the final day of the season. San Pédro had to win the fixture to claim their first-ever league title, whilst ASEC just needed to avoid losing to maintain their lead at the top of the table. Ultimately, the match resulted in an anticlimatic goalless draw which confirmed ASEC as the Ivorian champions once again, and qualified them for the 2021-22 CAF Champions League.
The links for the Fédération Ivoirienne de Football official social media channels can be found below:
- Website: http://www.fifciv.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/federationivoiriennedefootball
- Twitter: @FIFCI_tweet
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/FIFCI1/videos
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fifci_insta/
In addition, there are a number of other African football websites or social media accounts that report on Ivorian football. They can be found below:
- African Insider Twitter: @African_Insider
- African Ftbl Twitter: @AfricanFtbl
- AfricanFootball.com Twitter: @AfrFootball
- AfricanFootball.com Website: https://africanfootball.com/
So that completes the look at the Ivorian national team and its domestic league. If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.