Dakar exploded with joy at the final whistle as Sadio Mane’s Senegal beat Mohamed Salah’s Egypt for their first ever Africa Cup of Nations crown.
“African champions. What a game! What a team! You did it. Beautiful moment of football, beautiful moment of communion and national pride. Congratulations to our heroes,” Senegalese President Macky Sall tweeted after the Lions’ win Sunday night.
Sall declared Monday a national holiday to celebrate the “brilliant victory”, public television announced.
The president, who had been due to visit Comoros at the end of a trip that took in Egypt and Ethiopia, also cancelled the last leg in order to welcome the triumphant Lions on their return to Dakar at 1300 GMT Monday, RTS television said.
Dakar erupted when Liverpool star Mane scored the decisive penalty to give Senegal the win in a shoot-out (4-2) after the final finished goalless at the end of extra time.
Hundreds of supporters in Senegal jerseys flocked to Independence Square, near the presidential palace in the heart of Dakar, to celebrate.
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The square vibrated to the sound of car horns, vuvuzelas, whistles and firecrackers.
A festive atmosphere spread across the capital, with national flags hung from buildings, on vehicles and sidewalks.
At the massive African Renaissance Monument which towers above the capital from a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, dozens of fans hugged each other amid bonfires after the penalty shoot-out.
“I’m happy. It’s the best day of my life,” 25-year-old Modou Ba, a car washer, told AFP.
“We waited a long time. (The cup) is finally here. We really needed it,” said Seydou Nourou Diop, a 27-year-old accountant.
Student Khadim Lo, 21, said he was “very proud of our Lions. It’s exceptional.”
At the foot of the monument, supporters then left the fanzone to reach the street, some standing on cars and mingling with the crowds coming out of their homes to celebrate.
Earlier, the tense shoot-out saw some anxious supporters in tears and even unable to watch the screen, Mane having missed a penalty during normal time, his shot saved by Egypt goalkeeper Mohamed Abou Gabal.
“He must not miss the penalty. For a final the great player does not miss. It’s unacceptable,” fumed Pape Mbaye, a 24-year-old driver.
The crowd started to relax as two Egyptian shots missed the mark.
They finally exploded with joy after Mane converted the last shot to make Senegal African champions.