Celebrations continue in the West African nation of Senegal following the nation’s first finals victory at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
The win was a long time coming for the Teranga Lions, who suffered two previous AFCON final defeats in 2019 and 2002.
Their achievement has brought smiles to the faces of thousands of Senegalese fans, with President Macky Sall declaring Monday a public holiday so that celebrations could continue.
Public broadcaster RTS said Sall had cancelled the last leg of a diplomatic trip in order to greet the team on Tuesday at the presidential palace in Dakar after they return from host country Cameroon.
He congratulated the Lions in a tweet, saying: “What a game! What a team! You did it. Beautiful moment of football, beautiful moment of communion and national pride. Congratulations to our heroes!”
DW correspondent Robert Ade said celebrations continued throughout the night in Dakar, with the streets filled with jubilant supporters despite ongoing COVID-19 measures.
“The party continues in homes, bars and restaurants until the early morning in defiance of the barrier measures against the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
A young supporter of the Teranga Lions told DW that the AFCON win “brings us lots of joy.”
“I am very happy with this team because they won the cup for us,” he said. “We only needed the cup.”
“We have dreamed of it for years,” another supporter told DW. “It’s a successful [AFCON], especially for us champions.”
Students at the Cheikh Anta Diop University nervously watch the AFCON final from Senegal’s capital Dakar
First taste of AFCON success
Liverpool winger Sadio Mane became Senegal’s hero on Sunday night, scoring the winning penalty to hand his team a 4 — 2 victory over Egypt in Yaounde.
The AFCON tournament was scheduled in the middle of European club season, sparking uproar as hundreds of players departed their clubs to represent their countries on the continent.
Mane told reporters the victory marked not just the most important trophy of his life, but the most important day of his life.
“I am living a dream,” he said. “I can’t believe it. The wait was long, but finally we did it. We are all happy and proud to win this trophy.”
Although he was frustrated after missing a penalty during the game, he thanked his teammates for supporting him and keeping his spirits up throughout the nail-biter.
“You know what made the difference when I missed the first penalty? All my teammates came up to me and said: ‘Who cares, we are a team, we win together and we lose together.'”
A long wait comes to an end
Supporter Mariam told DW in Dakar that the Senegalese people “are really proud of our team. We did our best and we won.”
“We are proud to be Senegalese,” she added. “Today is party, tomorrow is party. We’re going to celebrate this all year!”
After gaining independence in 1960, Senegal rarely qualified for AFCON before emerging as a powerful football force in 2002, featuring now-head coach Aliou Cisse.
But even this new, stronger side endured plenty of heartbreaks. Cisse — who was also then the team’s captain — was one of the players to miss a penalty at the 2002 AFCON final against Cameroon. Just a few months later, Senegal became the second African team ever to reach the quarter finals of the FIFA World Cup.
Senegal players throw head coach and former captain Aliou Cisse into the air following their victory
Following a career playing for English clubs Birmingham City and Portsmouth, Cisse took over as Senegal’s head coach in 2015.
“It just shows that if you work hard, if you persevere, you will get what you want,” he told reporters after the match.
“I am very emotional because the people of Senegal have wanted this trophy for 60 years.”
Winger Mane dedicated the win to Cisse.
“The Senegalese people have suffered a lot, but I dedicate this trophy to Aliou Cisse,” he said.
“You can’t begin to understand what he has brought to Senegalese football. He deserves everything.”
Edited by: Ineke Mules