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Song and dance in Dakar after Afcon feat

Blaring car horns and pompous fireworks greeted the final whistle in the seaside capital Dakar.

In Summary

•Thousands took to the streets. People waved flags from the sunroofs of speeding cars. Onlookers hugged and cried. Dozens ran onto a beach in a northern suburb, screaming to the night sky.

•These were rare scenes of collective rapture for Senegalese soccer fans who have seen their fair share of sporting heartache, and who in the last two years have suffered the restrictions and economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senegal players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Africa Cup of Nations
Senegal players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Africa Cup of Nations
Image: REUTERS

Senegal erupted in celebration on Sunday night after its soccer team overcame Egypt to win the Africa Cup of Nations, giving the West African country its first tournament win after decades of heartbreaking near misses.

Cheers, car horns and fireworks greeted the final whistle in the seaside capital Dakar after a hard-won victory in a penalty shootout that in an instant erased Senegal's reputation as one of Africa's underachieving footballing nations.

Thousands took to the streets. People waved flags from the sunroofs of speeding cars. Onlookers hugged and cried. Dozens ran onto a beach in a northern suburb, screaming to the night sky.

"Senegal has lost so many trophies in the final. This is a relief. Finally, we have it!" said Pape Malick Diba, a 31-year-old trader who danced with friends at a fan zone in Dakar where supporters struggled to see the screens through the crowds.

These were rare scenes of collective rapture for Senegalese soccer fans who have seen their fair share of sporting heartache, and who in the last two years have suffered the restrictions and economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senegal lost to Algeria in the final of the last tournament in 2019 but entered this year's competition as favourites.

Their squad is full of stars from some of Europe's top clubs, most famously Liverpool striker Sadio Mane, who scored the winning penalty in Sunday's shootout after missing a chance from the spot during regular time.

The victory ends a storied history of tough losses. In 2002 Senegal narrowly missed the opportunity to become the first African team to reach a World Cup semi-final, losing to Turkey in extra time. That year it also lost in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations.

In the 2018 World Cup it was eliminated at the group stage under a new rule that penalised it for receiving more yellow cards than group rival Japan.

On Sunday those old memories were forgotten.