The tournament that reveals Africa's future superstars

Egyptian captain Mohammed Salah | CAF Image

U-20 AFCON The tournament that reveals Africa's future superstars

CAF Media • 13:07 - 18.02.2023
From February 19 to 11 March 2023, the African continent will live to the rhythm of the TotalEnergies U-20 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

The biennial competition is one of the most popular with African football fans, as it has consistently revealed youngsters who subsequently became world class players.

The exposure the TotalEnergies U-20 AFCON gives to talented players is a sneak preview into who would be Africa's next superstar as has been with several players in the past editions of the tournament.

Below are some of the African superstars that played in previous editions of the TotalEnergies U-20 AFCON.


Mido (9) against Cameroon's Rigobert Song (4) and the late Marc Vivien Foe | CAF Image

One of the first future stars to play at the TotalEnergies U-20 AFCON was Mido. Much less known by his full name, Ahmed Hossam Hussein Abdelhamid, the Egypt striker was the star during the 2001 edition in Ethiopia.

The Young Pharaohs finished as bronze medalists but Mido made a huge impression with the Zamalek prodigy attracting scouts from several European clubs.

Belgian side Gent won the race and he flourished at the club before joining Dutch giants Ajax to continue his development.

It was at Ajax that he realised his biggest dreams of his career, notably winning the league, the FA Cup and the Dutch Super Cup in 2002.

Mido went on to play for top clubs in Spain, France, England and Italy and won African Cup of Nations with the Pharaohs on home soil in 2006 before retiring.

Yaya Toure

Yaya Toure (19) of Ivory Coast battles for possession with Portuguese Deco in an international engagement | CAF Image

In 2003 in Burkina Faso, a certain Yaya Toure was discovered. Unhappy finalist of this edition won by Egypt, the former student of ASEC Academy impressed and won the Best Player of the tournament.

Yaya's ratings soared at Belgian side Beveren as many clubs wanted his services, but he made a surprise move to Ukrainian outfit Metalurg Donetsk, where he spent two seasons before joining Greek heavyweights Olympiakos.

In Greece, he won the League and FA Cup in his debut season before being spotted by French side Monaco from where he secured a big career move to Barcelona.

Three successful seasons with the Spanish giants saw him claim all the trophies in his path in 2009 by winning the Champions League, Spanish league, Spanish Cup, Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup.

After winning everything with Barelona, Toure joined Manchester City in England, winning the league thrice, the FA Cup and two League Cups.

Meanwhile, with the national team of whom he became captain, he won the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations in 2015 with the Elephants, the 2nd continental title for Côte d'Ivoire after their 1992 success.

A career rich in trophies which allowed the son of Bouake to win the title of CAF Player of the Year four times, a record he shares with Samuel Eto'o.

John Obi Mikel

Former Nigerian captain John Obi Mikel | CAF Image

Nigeria dominated and won the 2005 edition in Benin and in the ranks of the Flying Eagles were well-known names like Taye Taiwo, Victor Nsofor, Isaac Promise and John Obi Mikel.

The latter, who won the Player of the Tournament, moved to Lyn Oslo and Chelsea signed him from the Norwegian side for then transfer record of £23million

Mikel went on to play 11 seasons for the Blues, winning two English League titles, six domestic cups, but above all a Champions League in 2012 and the Europa League the following season.


He was vice captain of the Super Eagles when they won the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa in 2013.

Andre Ayew

Black Stars captain Andre Ayew celebrates a goal at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar | GFA Image

There are no TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations winners medal yet, but Ghana's Andre Ayew tasted success at the youth level with the Holy Grail in 2009. He captained the Black Satellites to continental and World Cup glory 14 years ago.

Ghana edged Cameroon in the 2009 U-20 AFCON final in Rwanda and the Marseillais shone during the competition, including a goal in the semi-finals.

A key element of the team, the son of the legendary Abedi Pelé displayed his technique and proves that he has inherited the qualities of his father.

Helifted the trophy with his team-mates before returning to Marseille where he will finally gain confidence and consistency after successive loans to Lorient and Arles-Avignon.

He will then experience the English Premier League, Turkey and the Qatari championship, before returning to England this winter to rejoin Steve Cooper at Nottingham Forest.

To his credit, Ayew won two League Cups with Marseille and a Qatar Cup with Al-Sadd SC but also two AFCON finals and three participations at the World Cup with the Black Stars.

Mohammed Salah

Mohammed Salah celebrates a goal during the Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers | CAF Images

In South Africa in 2011, the young Mohamed Salah winger of Arab Contractors was far from imagining the turn that his career would take after just a decent showing at the U20 AFCON.

He only scored one goal in the group stage against Lesotho and Egypt only finished third but scouts had seen the potential of the 17-year-old who was then the youngest player in the Egypt top-flight.

With interest from African giants Al Ahly, Salah finally landed in Switzerland, at FC Basel who won the race and he spurred the club to successes particularly in 2013, when he was named the Best Player of the Swiss Championship.

Basel won the League title in 2013 and 2014 and Chelsea snapped him up with a mixed first season in England before moving to Italy with Fiorentina and AS Roma. 

Two seasons later, he returned to England to play for Liverpool with a record African transfer fee.

Salah did not disappoint as he helped them to win the Premier League title in 2020 - the first time in many years - after helping them to clinch the title Champions League a year earlier. He was twice crowned CAF Footballer of the Year in 2018 and 2019.


Since then, many players from the continent have followed in their footsteps like Charles Kaboré (Burkina Faso), Benjamin Moukandjo (Cameroon) or Ahmed Hegazy (Egypt).

In Mali, Amadou Haïdara, very prominent in 2017 with the Aiglons and now with Leipzig, or his compatriot Sekou Koita, player of Red Bull Salzburg have taken over from the idol Seydou Keita, Best Player of the U-20 AFCON in 1999.

Crowned Best Player of the tournament at only 16 years old, the Senegalese Moussa N'Diaye joined FC Barcelona before moving to record Belgian champions Anderlecht.

His compatriots Krépin Diatta and Ibrahima Niane, who went through this youth competition, are now respectively in Monaco and Angers.

Ghanaian Abdul Fatawu, crowned Best Player of the 2021 edition in Ghana's victory over the surprise Ugandan, is having an encouraging start with Sporting Portugal.

For his part, the Zambian Patson Daka, crowned in 2017 with the Chipolopolo, is now the delight of Leicester supporters in the Premier League.