Dakar, special envoy
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The sky, a pastel blue, is clear. The cries of some 50,000 people seem to have dispersed the last clouds over the arena. That afternoon, the public was in an electric mood: boosted, fiery like the wind that has been blowing tirelessly for several days on Dakar.
Insolent also when some swing, from the stands, bottles of water on opponents or point lasers in their eyes. Tuesday, March 29, at 5 p.m., supporters of the Lions of Teranga made it clear to the Egyptians that they had no kingdom to conquer in this corner of Africa.
For this return match of the qualifying play-offs for the World Cup in Qatar (from November 21 to December 18), the lawn of the Abdoulaye Wade stadium, located in Diamniadio, not far from the capital, was hostile ground. “We want to win”, repeated in a loop the fans as if they had passed the word. No one dared to believe in another defeat against the Pharaohs – who won the first leg 1-0 in Cairo on March 25 – and therefore say goodbye to the World Cup.
The pressure has been stifling for Sadio Mané’s teammates, but at the height of the status of their national team, that of the best African nation in the FIFA rankings for four years. Thus, on the day of the meeting, the Senegalese press recalled the sacred stake of this qualification by multiplying the puns in “one” of their newspapers: “We Doha win” (The Daily); “Qatar or Dakar” (Bes Bi); “Pour down a deluge of fire on the Pharaohs” (The stages)…
Sadio Mané, “the balloon wizard”
This pressure, the boys of Aliou Cissé, the coach, are now used to digesting it well: they have “won” this final duel, intense and bitter, at the end of the suspense (1-0 after regulation time) and shots on goal (3-1).
In African football, God decides and Sadio Mané executes. The blessed striker from Senegal sent his Lions and a whole people to the Qatari World Cup by scoring the last decisive penalty. As in the final of the African Cup of Nations, February 6, in Yaoundé, against… Egypt. When the Algerian referee signaled the end of the match, the stands exploded, relieved by this epilogue.
Happiness, contagious, spread throughout the stadium as quickly as a strike from “Ballonbuwa”, “the balloon wizard”, the nickname of Sadio Mané. Some 50,000 people, possessed by intense joy, sang until they lost their minds, danced until they lost their minds. ” We are together “, we could hear. That evening, no device could have measured the decibels of these supporters as the power of their cries made the concrete of the building vibrate.
“I have been with the national team for twenty years. Honestly, I have never seen such fervor. This communion between the national team and the people is indescribable.underlined Cheikh Fantamady Keïta, Senegalese journalist at the daily The sun. “This qualification, we dreamed of it so much. It is also our confirmation: we are not African champions by chance”launched Fatou Sow, 31, an administrative director, dressed in the colors of Senegal.
In the new den of the Lions
“I am so happy for my country. The World Cup is more important than the CAN, it is the queen of competitions”assured Abdou Ndiaye, a 30-year-old plumber, who lost his voice from screaming and blowing his trumpet.
“We are African champions, we had to go to Qatar. We are in the best position: it is our second consecutive qualification for the World Cup and the third counting 2002, we are starting to have experience”rejoiced Ousmane Diop, a 31-year-old trader who made the trip from Saint-Louis, a city in the far north of the country. “I dedicate this victory to the Senegalese people, we had to please them. If we could go to every house to thank the supporters, we would.”insisted Aliou Cissé.
These supporters did not want to miss this moment of national history. Indeed, Senegal-Egypt was the first poster played in this new Dakar arena – “the most beautiful jewel of the sub-region”as described by Matar Ba, the Minister of Sports – inaugurated in February in the presence of several Heads of State (notably Turkish and Rwandan).
Thus, on Tuesday March 29, football fans, from the youngest to the oldest, met in their new home. A white ring, coated with a sort of latticework armor, placed delicately less than forty kilometers from the capital. Coming from all over the territory, they discovered for the first time the new den of the Lions of Teranga: an English-style stadium, which rivals the most beautiful European arenas, where 50,000 supporters can almost caress the lawn.
It was enough to see their eyes to understand how much they expected to vibrate inside such a setting. They all make the same expression when they look up. ” He is magnificent. This is our new pride. He is presentable”underlined Dior Kamby, 25, who came from Ziguinchor, in Casamance. “It is the first time since I was born that I have seen such a stadium in my countryassured Hassan Diaw, an entrepreneur, who took the road from this same southern city. I’ve been here since 6:30.
Early in the morning, the ultras and other supporters disembarked by car, bus or via the new TER from Dakar station. By late morning, ticket prices had already increased fivefold. In the early afternoon, the Senegal stadium (its other name) is almost full. “We’re all here already.launched with a big smile Ousmane Gueye, a young footballer of 18 years. It’s Victory Day. »