Ivory Coast parade through Abidjan, champions of Africa
'The overwhelming feeling is one of pride,' said Junior Djedjess, one of the fans on hand to soak in the national team's astonishing run after a terrible group stage.
Ivory Coast players, winners of the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations, parade in a truck on the Alassane Ouattara bridge in Abidjan. Picture: Sia KAMBOU / AFP
Tens of thousands of jubilant fans crammed the streets of Abidjan on Monday for the Ivory Coast’s victory parade after the hosts’ remarkable Africa Cup of Nations triumph the night before.
Just as in 2015 for their last AFCON triumph, the Elephants roamed the streets of the country’s economic capital.
Sebastien Haller, who scored the decisive goal in Sunday’s 2-1 final win over Nigeria, and the rest of the squad were perched on a truck fitted out for the occasion with a three star sign to mark the Ivorians’ third title.
With Monday declared a special holiday fans massed on bridges and avenues, many ignoring the oppressive heat to run alongside the victors’ mechanical chariot.
After a festive four hour parade the team, under heavy police escort, arrived at the Felix Houphouët-Boigny stadium.
Wearing ‘African champions’ t-shirts the 2024 AFCON champions did a lap of honour to stands packed with fans – all decked out in orange – the national colour.
Some players were clearly moved by the welcome accorded them.
“The overwhelming feeling is one of pride,” said Junior Djedjess, one of the fans on hand to soak in the national team’s astonishing run after a terrible group stage.
“With three stars we have now joined the great African nations,” he added with only Egypt (seven titles), Cameroon (5) and Ghana (4) boasting better records in the continental showpiece.
After their lap of honour the players stepped on to the pitch, one by one, with Max-Alain Gradel, the only survivor along with Serge Aurier from the last Ivorian team to win the title in 2015, presenting the trophy to the crowd.
“Ivory Coast, here is your African cup. May God bless the Ivory Coast” the 36-year-old captain said before handing the trophy to the Prime Minister Robert Beugre Mambe.
Three weeks ago no one not even the most ardent Elephants supporter could have dreamt of this day.
They should have really been knocked out in the group stage after losing 4-0 to Equatorial Guinea on January 22, their heaviest ever home defeat.
Their group-stage showing led to the departure of veteran French coach Jean-Louis Gasset, who had been in charge since May 2022.
He was replaced by Emerse Fae, a former Ivorian international who had never coached before.
Yet Fae oversaw an incredible turnaround in the team’s fortunes, as the Ivorians came from behind to beat holders Senegal in the last 16 and overcame a 1-0 deficit with 10 men to beat Mali in the quarter-finals.
After beating the Democratic Republic of Congo 1-0 in the last four they duly completed their fairytale run on Sunday night against Nigeria.
“After that 4-0 defeat I was downhearted but we were still in it and a new team was born,” reflected Junior Djedjess.
The celebrations continue for the team on Tuesday when they will be received by the country’s president Alassane Ouattara.