- Written by Ian Williams and Amir Ahmed
- BBC News, Abidjan
Thousands of football fans dressed in orange and white poured into the streets of Abidjan to watch the Ivory Coast team display the Africa Cup of Nations trophy they won on Sunday.
The hosts beat Nigeria 2-1 to win their third Africa Cup of Nations, sparking huge celebrations across the country.
Cecilia, who was born in Ivory Coast but now lives in the United States, told the BBC that she had traveled to her country to attend the final.
“This is the best decision of my life,” she said.
Ivory Coast were an unlikely winner. They lost two group stage matches and sacked their coach midway through the tournament. Emers Faye, Youth Team Manager, has taken his first position in charge of a senior team.
After four matches, he was lifting the cup.
Juliette Yuan told the BBC: “Emmerse Faye is the heroine of Ivory Coast.”
“We are very proud to celebrate our hero. Vive Emerse! Emerse is the best coach,” she added.
Ms. Yuan and her friends made special T-shirts to commemorate Fei for leading the country to victory.
The show started at the Palmier Hotel and the crowds slowly built from around midday, becoming more rowdy as the scheduled start time approached.
As the numbers increased, so did the noise, with horns blaring and cheering, accompanied by dancing.
At around 15:00 GMT, the first players suddenly appeared on board the flatbed truck that would take them on their journey through Abidjan to the 30,000+ capacity Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny for the trophy presentation.
Banners on the truck declared the Elephants “2023 African Champions” and featured three stars, a reference to the fact that the team had now won this competition on three occasions.
Their underdog story resonated throughout the streets as people danced in joy at their amazing comeback.
“It's amazing. The first part of the tournament was very difficult but after that the players played very well and today we are very happy. Today we have to have some parties, it's mandatory,” said Kwaku, another fan who attended the show.
Dressed in short-sleeved training shirts, sunglasses and baseball caps, with gold medals around their necks, the players looked relaxed and smiled at the enthusiastic fans, leaned against the barricade, took selfies and waved the Ivory Coast flag.
At one point, captain Serge Aurier helped lift a young fan into the truck to take a photo before returning it to his waiting father.
Ivory Coast's triumphant story got better when the team's cup-clinching goal was scored by Sébastien Haller, who had been diagnosed with testicular cancer a few months earlier.
“We were hoping to get to this point, and again it wasn't an easy game. The joyful scenes we're seeing now, and what's happening in the country, are worth it too. I really hope it benefits a lot of people.” Haller said.
“We are very, very proud of our three stars on our shirt. We are [the Ivorian people] One fan told the BBC: “We've been through a lot of things, and today we're happy and together.”
Given the response, it is clear that members of this victorious team will be viewed as national champions for years to come.
Fans around the world are already describing Ivory Coast's victory as one of the greatest turnarounds in the history of the football tournament.
More about the Africa Cup of Nations:
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