Football is often the biggest emotion, but especially a lot of this was crystallized on Sunday evening after the final match of the African championship tournament.
The scorer of the final by Sébastien Haller the rollercoaster of less than two years erupted into so violent crying that he had to interrupt a TV interview.
Haller scored a 2–1 winning goal in the 81st minute with a wonderful control, and the Ivory Coast got to celebrate the championship at their home tournament. The final opponent was Nigeria.
Even the fact that Ivory Coast even made it to the playoffs was a small miracle. “Elephants” were third in their initial group and the goal difference was three goals on the negative side.
It is usually not enough for a place in the playoffs, but luckily for the Ivory Coast, two teams were two points behind in third place, so the host country managed to cross the bar as the last country to advance.
On top of all that, Ivory Coast fired its head coach For Jean-Louis Gasset after the preliminary group games. The team lost to Equatorial Guinea 0–4 and was replaced Emerse Fae.
In the playoffs, the “Elephants” kept tickling forward, but the opponent always fell somehow, like the reigning champion Senegal after a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals.
Now Ivory Coast is celebrating the African championship for the third time.
“We dreamed about this moment several times,” Haller said after the match for the BBC.
“We hope to reach this point and once again the match was difficult. I hope this will do a lot of good for a lot of people.”
Haller has only represented the Ivory Coast as an adult. Haller, who was born in Paris, represented France in his junior years. His father is French and his mother is Ivorian.
For Haller it was already unbelievable to himself that he played in this tournament. He reflected on his situation the day before the final match.
“The last 18 months have been challenging for me and my family,” 29-year-old Haller stated.
The background here is that Haller was diagnosed with testicular cancer in July 2022, just two weeks after he had moved to Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund.
Haller began training at full capacity in January 2023, but in the previous months, Haller had undergone two surgeries and chemotherapy treatments.
“The worst part of the treatment periods was the nausea and pain. The depressing atmosphere of the hospital did not make it any easier. I always just kept in my mind that after a few horrible days I would be able to go to my family to rest and enjoy their company.”
Haller the problems did not end with surviving the cancer. Last December, he injured his ankle and did not play in the early group matches of the African tournament. The end is, classically speaking, history: winning goals in the semi-final and the final.
“I think it will take months or years to internalize what has happened in recent years,” Haller stated.