Twenty years ago, Senegal’s golden generation of players, including ex-Liverpool star, El-Hadji Diouf, lost the Africa Cup of Nations crown to Cameroon. Aliou Cisse, who now coaches the squad, missed the game-winning penalty kick in the penalty shootout as Cameroon won its second AFCON title in a row in Mali.
Months later, the Teranga Lions rallied back from that sad defeat to stun France in their first World Cup game, defeating the then-holders by a solitary goal. They sped to the quarter-finals of the Korea/Japan competition, but a ‘golden goal’ in the last eight saw them lose to Turkey in their maiden World Cup appearance.
Cisse was born on March 24, 1976, in Senegal’s southwestern town of Ziguinchor, and his family relocated to France when he was nine years old. They lived in Champigny-sur-Marne, a Paris suburb. His childhood ambition of playing for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) came true as he appeared for the club between 1998 and 2002. Later, he wore the jerseys of English clubs Birmingham City and Portsmouth, where he played as a defensive midfielder and occasionally as a center back. Unlike his time with the Teranga Lions, his club career did not garner much attention, as he retired in 2009 from Ligue 2’s Nîmes.
The former player then went into management and rapidly earned his badges before landing his big break as the assistant coach of the U-23 team from 2012 to 2013. Between 2013 and 2015, he was the head coach. In 2015, he took over as Teranga Lions coach from Frenchman Alain Giresse after the team was eliminated in the group rounds of the 2015 AFCON.
In his first AFCON outing, Senegal was sent out in the quarter-final stage of the competition after a penalty shootout loss to eventual winners, Cameroon. Cisse’s men were eliminated from the group stage of the 2018 World Cup, the nation’s second in history, due to disciplinary issues. The Africans finished the competition tied on points and goal difference with Japan, having received six yellow cards, two more than Japan.
Senegal has set its sights on the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations after being disappointed in Russia. They were one of the favorites, as they had been in past tournaments, and they lived up to that expectation when they reached the competition’s final. However, Algeria defeated the Lions of Teranga for the second time in a row.
After so many disappointments and frustration in the life of Aliou Cisse, the wait was finally worth it.
As Senegal went on to win this year’s AFCON by defeating Egypt in the finals. The match finished 0-0 after the 90 min and the scoreline remained unchanged after the additional 30 min.
The match went to the dreaded penalty shoot-out where Sadio Mane’s side came victorious 4-2. Aliou Cisse finally achieved his long overdue dream.
He might not have won it with studs and socks but he definitely won it with a suit and a tie!
The 60-year long dream of a crazy football nation came true.