Blog post written by Dr. Agbenyega Adedze
Soccer Icons representing four countries; Didier Drogba (Nigeria?), Jonathan Pitroipa (Burkina Faso), Seydou Keita (Mali), and Wakaso Mubarak (Ghana)
One of my favorite topical collections is soccer. I collect mostly the FIFA World Cup and African soccer in general. While browsing on the internet for soccer stamps in 2016, I came across a set of African Cup of Nations commemoratives issued by the Republic of Togo that were not listed in the Scott Catalogue. The set was unique in the sense that it represents some of the best players in Africa and Europe and the accompanying art portrayed the exuberance African soccer fans. The stamps captured the dynamics of the beautiful game in its various aspects.
As a strong advocate of postage stamp as primary sources, I see this set of stamps as artifacts loaded with history. One learns about soccer in general, the tournament (African Cup of Nations), the individual players, and the social and cultural importance of sports in the life of Africans and the rest of the world. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) was founded in 1957 by four countries: Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Africa. South Africa lost its membership temporarily due to their past apartheid policy. When the first tournament was held in 1957, most African countries were still under colonial rule and Egypt was the overall winner among the four countries. The priority therefore, for every African country upon attainment of independence was to join CAF. Soccer became an important medium to showcase the new nations and pan-Africanism in general. Subsequently, the tournament became the platform for the unique style of African soccer; the expression of individual flair, entertainment, and attacking football.
The importance of stamps to project the image of each country is fervently adhered to by governments and postal authorities. Almost all African countries issue stamps to commemorate this biennial tournament. Thus, there is a variety of African Cup of Nations commemoratives depicting national soccer and national soccer icons; however, it is not unusual to see politicians usurping the players for their own aggrandizement.
That said; I am very fond of this stamp sheet because it has a major flaw. Didier Drogba is from Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and not Nigeria. Fans of both countries will be appalled and will not hesitate to vilify the printers (Stamperija Ltd.) from Lithuania. They do print very colorful high quality stamps but are relatively new to the stamp business and represent a few African countries.