Senegal’s football team arrived home a day after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) to hundreds of thousands of ecstatic and chanting fans in the capital Dakar.
Huge crowds descended on a military airport in the West African country’s capital on Monday, blowing vuvuzelas and waving flags in celebration.
President Macky Sall was waiting at the airport to greet the returning players, who then paraded through thronged streets atop a bus on their way to the presidential palace.
Some swung from a billboard frame. Others danced on the tarmac.
As Senegal’s national soccer team touched down in the capital Dakar after winning their first Africa Cup of Nations, each of the thousands of faces there to welcome them home was ecstatic.
Star player Sadio Mane scored the winning spot-kick to seal victory for Senegal in a 4-2 penalty shootout, following a 0-0 draw with Egypt in the decider in Yaounde the night before.
It was a long-awaited victory for the West African country that fell to Algeria in the last Cup of Nations final in 2019. Senegal also reached the tournament’s final stage in 2002, but lost to Cameroon in a shootout.
Sounds of fireworks, horns and cheers rang through the night in Dakar and into Monday morning, when hundreds of people wearing soccer jerseys or draped in Senegalese flags gathered outside the airport to await their team’s return.
Senegalese dance music echoed from loudspeakers over the crowd of adoring fans as the team stepped out of the plane to a hero’s welcome.
Roads surrounding the airport flowed with a river of supporters as long as the eye could see.
Fans arrived by bicycles, motorbikes, cars and on foot, bringing the otherwise busy highways to a joyous standstill. Among them were government officials and opposition politicians, celebrating the country’s victory together as one.
The victory marked Senegal’s first success in the tournament and sparked jubilant celebrations across the capital city of three million people.
Senegal reached the final of the AFCON twice but the Lions of Teranga never clinched the ultimate prize until Sunday.
Africa’s top-ranked national team and 20th in the world lost the last Cup of Nations final in 2019, falling 1-0 to Algeria in Cairo. It also lost 2002 final on penalties to Cameroon, a few months before becoming one of just three African teams to reach a World Cup quarter-final.
The government had declared Monday a public holiday in order to celebrate the occasion.
By: Isaac Clottey