Cheerful crowds welcome Senegalese football champions after historic victory

Tens of thousands of jubilant fans thronged the streets of Senegal’s capital, Dakar, on Monday to welcome the national team after winning the Africa Cup of Nations.

Some swayed from the plate frame.

Others danced on the tarmac. As the Senegalese national football team arrived in the capital Dakar after winning their first African Nations Cup, every one of the thousands of faces there to welcome them back home was ecstatic.

Superstar Sadio Mane scored the winning penalty to secure the victory for Senegal on penalties 4-2, after a goalless draw with Egypt in the play-off in Yaounde the previous night.

It was a long-awaited victory for the West African country, which fell to Algeria in the final of the last Nations Cup in 2019. Senegal also reached the final stage of the tournament in 2002, but lost to Cameroon on penalties.

Fireworks, trumpets and chants were heard all night in Dakar and into Monday morning, when hundreds of people in soccer jerseys or in Senegalese flags gathered outside the airport to wait for their team to return.

“We’ve been losing those games for a long time. I’ve been watching the team since the seventies, waiting,” said Tierno Nyan, a 60-year-old computer programmer who came from the outskirts of Dakar hours earlier to cheer for the team.

“Last night I was crying in front of my family – my wife and children,” he added.

Senegalese dance music reverberated from loudspeakers over a crowd of adoring fans as the team stepped off the plane to greet the champions. The roads around the airport were flowing with a river of supporters for as long as the eye could see.

Fans arrived by bicycle, motorbike and car on foot, bringing busy highways to a halt, and among them government officials and opposition politicians, celebrated the country’s victory together.

“We are very happy and proud of our lions,” said supporter Amina Cisse. “Our dreams came true.”

(Jowhar with Reuters and AFP)

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