Each of the thousands of faces waiting to greet Senegal’s national soccer team as they returned home after winning their first Africa Cup of Nations was joyful.
Senegal’s star player Sadio Mane hit the game-winning penalty kick in a 4-2 penalty shootout, following a 0-0 tie with Egypt in the decider the night before in Yaounde.
“We are very happy and very proud of our lions, our dreams came true,” supporter Amina Cisse said.
It was a long-awaited victory for the West African nation, which had lost in the 2019 Cup of Nations final against Algeria. Senegal made it to the final stage of the tournament in 2002, but lost in a shootout against Cameroon.
President Macky Sall of Senegal also designated Monday, February 07 a public holiday to commemorate the national football team’s first-ever African Cup of Nations triumph over Egypt, according to official television.
Sall, who had planned to visit Comoros at the end of a trip that included Egypt and Ethiopia, canceled the final leg to greet the victorious Lions when they arrived in Dakar at 1300 GMT on Monday.
According to RTS television, Sall will honor the Lions on Tuesday at the presidential palace in Dakar:
“The president of the republic declared Monday a public holiday, a paid day off, following the brilliant victory of the Lions,”
Hundreds of supporters wearing soccer jerseys or wrapped in Senegalese flags waited outside the airport in Dakar all night and into Monday am to await their team’s homecoming.
“We have lost these games for so long. I’ve been watching the team since the 1970s, waiting. Last night I was crying in front of my family – my wife and my kids,” said Thierno Niane, a 60-year-old computer programmer.
As the players came off the plane to a hero’s welcome, Senegalese dance music blared from loudspeakers above the mob of enthusiastic spectators. A torrent of fans extended as far as the eye could see along the roads around the airport.
According to Reuters, bicycles, motorcycles, vehicles, and pedestrians arrived in droves, putting the ordinarily congested roadways to a halt. Among them were government officials and opposition politicians, celebrating the country’s victory together as one.