Written by Oluwaseun Oyediji
Curtain falls as host, Cote d’Ivoire emerged as the winners of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) after a 2-1 win over Nigeria in Abidjan on Sunday.
The highly anticipated game and grand finale saw FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, CAF President, Dr Patrice Motsepe, and Cote d’Ivoire President, Alassane Ouattara in attendance as goals from Franck Kessie and Sebastien Hallers canceled out William Troost Ekong’s opener for the Super Eagles.
At the end of the tournament, individual awards were dolled out starting with South Africa smiling home with the Fair Play award as the team goalkeeper, Ronwen Williams won the goalkeeper of the tournament.
The Elephant’s Simon Adingra who created two assists for his side’s two goals won the man of the match after a fantastic and superb individual display which lifted his side to the title.
After scoring three goals from his defensive position, Nigeria’s Ekong was voted the Man of the Competition despite his team’s loss in the final to the host.
Egypt’s Mostafa Mohamed who scored four goals won the bronze boot as Angola’s Gelson Dala who also coverted four goals emerged as the silver boot winner.
With five goals from four games, Equatorial Guinea’s Emilio Nsue won the Golden Boot.
Adingra also got votes as the Best Young Player of the tournament while the winning coach, Emerse Fae won the coach of the tournament.
As the final whistle blew in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) final, 40-year-old interim coach Emerse Fae could hardly believe his eyes. Just one month ago, he was a virtual unknown, hastily appointed to steer Ivory Coast out of crisis. Then, there he stood, an African champion amidst one of football’s great modern fairytales.
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Born in France to Ivorian parents in 1984, Fae’s playing career was modest but solid. After representing France at youth level, he switched allegiance to Cote d’Ivoire in 2004. A skilful central midfielder, Fae played primarily in France’s Ligue 1, suiting up for Nantes, Nice, and Bastia.
In 2006, Fae was part of the Ivory Coast squad that suffered AFCON heartbreak losing 4-2 on penalties to Egypt. The game itself had finished 0-0 after extra time, but the shootout quickly turned into a nightmare for Ivory Coast. As the dejected Ivorian players watched Egypt lift the trophy, midfielder Fae was inconsolable, sinking to his knees with his head in his hands.
Having battled so hard to reach the final, to lose in such agonising fashion was too much for Fae to bear. The distraught midfielder had to be helped from the field by teammates, the disappointment of coming so close but ultimately falling short at the last hurdle etched on his face. An image of sporting anguish left a permanent mark on Fae.
It was a scar that he would have the chance to erase 18 years later. Fae had an earlier opportunity to realise his dream but once again missed out on the 2012 AFCON due to injury.
Following his retirement, Fae focused on his coaching career and was appointed the assistant to former coach, Jean Louis Gasset and became the interim coach after the dismissal of the coach following a win and two losses from the group stage of the competition.
Fae led his team to four wins in the knockout stage to win the 2023 AFCON on home soil to his amazement which sprang joy throughout the nation.
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