5 Most Iconic Hairstyles in AFCON History

There is no football competition in the world that gives us the volume and variety of iconic hairstyles that the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) gives.
Sports
January 12, 2023
Written By
Astorre Cerebróne
In this Article

No football competition in the world gives us the volume and variety of iconic hairstyles that the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) gives. It is no surprise, seeing as Africa is the home of artistic expression in the most diverse forms, where hairstyles transcend what is visible. Here, they are statements capturing the essence and individuality of their wearers. In every edition of Africa’s biggest football showcase, fans are entranced by the vibrant display of unique hairstyles, backed by exceptional talent; and flamboyant characters with big personalities. Here are 5 of the most iconic ones we have been treated to.

  1. Taribo West - Nigeria

Before he became a pastor post-retirement, Taribo West was a legendary footballer regarded as one of the game’s hardmen. But nothing made Taribo more memorable than his vibrant hairstyle, which was impossible to ignore or miss. After introducing it to a global audience at the 1998 World Cup, he brought his distinct green, meticulously braided extensions to AFCON in 2000. They stood on his head like horns, draped in the colors of his country, with the rest flowing down the back of his head. His reason for the hairstyle was simple; to scare opposition attackers before they even got to have a go at him. It was a psychological weapon that very often worked because truly, many were scared to go up against him. He often won the battle before a ball was kicked. It became his signature and one of the most iconic in football history.

  1. Aristide Bancé  – Burkina Faso

When Burkina Faso shocked the world in 2013, reaching the AFCON final for the first time in their history, there was one player that got a lot of attention. Of course, partly for his football skills – he was a constant threat to the opposition and he even scored in the semi-final against Ghana – but it was his hairstyle that got everybody talking. Aristide Bancé’s vibrant, spiky locs made him look majestic when on the run, like a god whose hair was burning with a golden flame. He, unfortunately, couldn’t claim the gold here, as his country fell just short, losing in the final to Nigeria. It was not the first time he was sporting this hairstyle at AFCON, having made his debut in the 2012 tournament. But it was the first time everyone took notice because Burkina Faso went all the way to the final this time. Of course, he did it again at every AFCON he played till he retired, leaving an indelible mark on the tournament's history. No one will ever forget this guy.

  1. Robert Kidiaba (DR Congo)

The Democratic Republic of Congo has probably given us the most diverse collection of hairstyles at AFCON, but the most iconic of them all was by their goalkeeper, Robert Kidiaba. He is primarily remembered for two things; his hairstyle and his dramatic donkey dance celebration. But the thing is, both are remembered together because it was only when he was doing that dance that his hair came into focus. After all, he was a goalkeeper and no one really paid attention to the hair when he was busy making saves. Nonetheless, Kidiaba was unforgettable. Once he broke into the dance, the hair would bounce exuberantly off his back, creating a spectacle. Ever the showman, Kidiaba never missed an opportunity to do his dance and flaunt his hair. He went on to win an AFCON bronze medal, at least something to show for it. Even if he didn’t, he had done enough with his flamboyance to be remembered for a long time.

  1. Fodé Mansaré (Guinea)

When Guinea made their return to AFCON after a six-year absence in 2004, the team boasted star players like Titi Camara and Pascal Feindouno. But it was 22-year-old Fodé Mansaré who stole the show and became the cynosure of all eyes when he stepped onto the field for his tournament debut against DR Congo. He was unapologetically flamboyant; adorning big white tapes on his ears, prominent white bands on his wrists, and sporting braided hair shining with a radiant golden hue. He was also very impressive on the ball, an electric dribbler who gave defenders nightmares. His assist to Titi Camara brought Guinea’s equaliser and it was his incredible run and cutback that led to the winner as well. A style icon that could back his flamboyance with substance; what’s not to like? As the tournament progressed, he remained impressive, helping his country to the quarter-finals where they were eliminated by Mali. Still, no one who witnessed the tournament would forget Mansaré in a hurry.

  1. Paul Koulibaly (Burkina Faso)

The first thing that will surprise you about Paul Koulibaly is the fact that he is a twin, and yes, his brother (Pan Pierre Koulibaly) braids his hair too. But unlike his brother, Paul’s hairstyle is a lot more colorful and utterly unmissable. While Pan Pierre struggled to secure playing opportunities in the national team due to established players in his position, Paul consistently featured as a center-back, notably contributing to Burkina Faso's journey to the 2013 AFCON final. Fans could not help but engage in discussions about his hairstyle—a beautifully braided design with the front portion styled resembling a horn at the center. In defense, he was brilliant, and the hair accentuated his brilliance. His distinct hair made him easy to pick out on the pitch, and every action was enhanced by his hair and its cadence. One suspects that he knew how much attention he was getting, and he put on a show for the audience. Quite the showoff.

Honorable Mentions

  1. Manuel Loco Cange (Angola)

  1. Gervinho (Côte d’Ivoire)

  1. Junior Kabananga and Jonathan Bolingi (DR Congo)

  1. Didier Ndong (Gabon)

  1. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon)

  1. Kei Kamara (Sierra Leone)

  1. Clinton Njie (Cameroon)

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