Africa Cup of Nations Gabon 2017 will be the first outing for some players. For others, it is a familiar terrain after multiple appearances and honours. Despite the advancing age of the veterans, they continue to live by the adage ‘old soldier never dies’.
The leader of the troop is the Egyptian veteran goalkeeper, Essam El Hadary, who turns 44 on 15 January. It is the first time that a player of more than 40 years is among the actors of the Africa Cup of Nations. This will be his seventh AFCON in almost 20 years (1998, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2010) and has four titles to show for.
On five final tournament appearances is Ivorian midfielder Salomon Kalou (2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015).
Then there are 7 players with four participations at the final tournament. Ghanaian quartet – Harrison Afful, Jonathan Mensah, Andre Ayew and Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu; Burkina Faso duo, Moussa Germain Sanou and Bakary Kone and Malian shot-stopper Soumbeila Diakite.
Gabonese trio, Didier Ovono, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Stephane Bitseki-Moto have appeared at the on three previous occasions, just as Ghanaians Fatau Dauda and John Boye; Burkina Faso quartet Bertrand Traore, Charles Kabore, Préjulce Makoulma and Jonathan Pitroipa, Ivorian Wilfried Bony and Malian Sambou Yatabare.
In total, 110 of the 368 players present in Gabon have at least one experience at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Three Egyptians, the evergreen El-Hadary, defenders Ahmed Elmohamady and Ahmed Fathi and ten Ivorians namely Sylvain Gbohouo, Sayouba Mande, Serge Aurier, Wilfried Kanon, Eric Bailly, Geoffrey Serey Die, Max Gradel, Salomon Kalou, Wilfried Bony, Cheick Doukoure have laid their hands on the Holy Grail of African football.