Ivory Coast football fans flock to see Abidjan victory parade
IAN WILLIAMS/ BBC
Image caption: Fans dance in the street as they celebrate the Elephants’ third Afcon win
Thousands of football fans wearing orange and white have flooded the streets of Abidjan to see the Ivory Coast team parade the Africa Cup of Nations trophy they won on Sunday.
The hosts defeated Nigeria 2-1 to win Afcon for a third time, prompting huge celebrations across the country.
Cecilia, who was born in Ivory Coast but now lives in the US, told the BBC she had travelled home for the final.
“That’s the best decision of my life,” she said.
Image caption: A football fan awaits the arrival of the national team in Abidjan
Ivory Coast were unlikely winners. They lost two group games and fired their manager mid-tournament. Emerse Fae, a youth-team manager, took over for his first job leading a senior team.
Four games later, he was lifting a trophy.
Juliette Youan told the BBC: “Emerse Fae is a hero of Ivory Coast.”
“We are so proud to celebrate our hero. Vive Emerse! Emerse is the best coach,” she added.
Ms Youan and her friends made special T-shirts to commemorate Fae for leading the country to victory.
Image caption: Football fans made T-shirts to celebrate coach Emerse Fae
The parade began at Hôtel Palmier and the crowd built slowly from around midday, becoming more boisterous as the parade’s scheduled start time approached.
As numbers grew, so did the noise, with horns blaring and chants breaking out, accompanied by dancing.
At around 15:00 GMT, the first players suddenly appeared on the flatbed truck that would take them on their journey through Abidjan to the over 30,0000 capacity Félix Houphouët Boigny stadium for a trophy presentation.
The banners on the truck announced the Elephants as “Champions of Africa 2023” and featured three stars, a nod to the fact that the team has now won this competition on three occasions.
Their underdog story resonated throughout the streets as people danced, rejoicing in their amazing comeback.
“It’s amazing. The first part of the tournament was very difficult but afterwards, the players played very well and today we are very happy. Today we have to do some parties, it’s obligatory,” said Kwaku, another fan at the parade.
Image caption: Ivory Coast players celebrating their victory
Looking relaxed in short-sleeved training tops, sunglasses, baseball caps and with gold medals around their necks, the players smiled out at the adoring crowds, leaning against the barrier, taking selfies and waving the Ivorian flag.
At one point, Captain Serge Aurier even helped lift a young fan onto the truck for a photo before handing him back to his waiting father.
The celebrations continue on Tuesday with a reception at the presidential palace.
Image caption: Ivory Coast won Afcon for a third time
Ivory Coast’s tale of triumph was made even better as the goal that clinched the trophy for the team was scored by Sébastien Haller, who had been diagnosed with testicular cancer a few months ago.
“We hoped to get to this point and once again the match wasn’t an easy one. The joyous scenes we see now, what’s happening in the country, they deserve it too. I really hope it does a lot of people good,” said Haller.
“We are very, very proud of our three stars on our jersey. We [the Ivorian people] have passed through many, many things, and today we are happy, we get together,” one fan told the BBC.
Given the reaction, it is clear members of this victorious squad will be viewed as national heroes for years to come.
Fans around the world are already dubbing Ivory Coast’s win one of the greatest turnaround in football tournament history.