After a hard-fought 90 minutes, Senegal and Cameroon were still locked in a scoreless draw at the end of regulation in the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Final. It was still 0-0 after two exhausting halves of extra time, so the match went to penalties, the most nerve-fraying match deciders in sports.
Senegal’s goalkeeper Tony Sylva stopped the first penalty kick he faced, and Senegal went ahead 2-1, before Cameroon’s Patrick Suffo, Lauren, and Geremi all found the back of the net. Senegal’s El Hadji Diouf missed wide, and Sylva emphatically denied Rigobert Song’s attempt. That meant the fate of the match — the not-at-all hyperbolic fate of the entire country — fell to Senegal captain Aliou Cissé. He placed the ball on the spot, started his run-up the second the referee blew the whistle, and he drilled his low shot…right into goalkeeper Alioum Boukar’s shins.
And that was it: the Indomitable Lions were AFCON Champions for the second straight time. Cissé and his teammates were inconsolable, burying their faces in their hands as the Cameroonian players celebrated on the pitch.
“Cissé was so gutted [after the match] and he said to me: ‘Salif, this trophy was in my hands. I was holding it with one hand and Cameroon stole it from me,’” his teammate Salif Diao told the BBC. Cissé also made a promise that Diao never forgot, saying “If I don’t win it as a player, I will win it one day as a coach.”
When Cissé hung up his boots for the final time, he did turn his attention to coaching. He was on the Senegal national team’s staff when they played in the 2012 Olympics, and he was appointed head coach of the National Team three years later. Under his watch, the Lions of Teranga made it to the 2017 AFCON quarterfinals, qualified for the 2018 World Cup, and muscled their way into the 2019 AFCON Final, where they lost 1-0 to Algeria.
Due to his five years of almosts and nearlys, Cissé was shouldering several metric tons of pressure going into the 2021 AFCON tournament (which was played in early 2022, for obvious reasons). After topping their group, Senegal had decisive wins over Equatorial Guinea and Burkina Faso to put themselves in another AFCON Final, this time against Egypt.
At the end of regulation, Senegal and Egypt were tied 0-0. It was still scoreless after extra time. And, almost exactly two decades after his own soul-wrenching miss, Aliou Cissé again found himself staring at the scoreboard as Senegal headed to penalty kicks in another AFCON Final. (And because the universe’s scriptwriters have a sense of humor, the match was being played in Cameroon.)
But this time, superstar forward Sadio Mané drilled the decisive penalty, the one that permanently etched Senegal’s name in AFCON history, the one that made the coach’s 20-year-old promise come true. “I am [an] African champion,” an emotional Cissé said in his post-match press conference. It was long, it was difficult, sometimes complicated, but we never gave up. I dedicate this victory to the Senegalese people. For years, we have been chasing this cup. Today we will be able to put a star on our jersey.”
AJ asks about the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations in this week’s virtual pub quiz. Just wait until question five of random knowledge and you’ll be able to impress all of your virtual friends. Watch it now!
Back when the world shut down in 2020, we weren’t about to let that stop us from bringing you the best trivia in the business. Thus, the Geeks Who Drink Twitch Pub Quiz was born!
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