TOWhen a journalist hugged him as he sobbed on the grass, Sébastien Haller also shed some tears. “We have dreamed of this moment many times,” said the Borussia Dortmund professional footballer on Sunday night, shortly after scoring the decisive victory for the Ivory Coast 2-1 (0-1) in the Cup final. Europe. African Cups He scored against Nigeria. The third title for the host country this year, after 1992 and 2015, is also very special for Haller.

“Haller-lujah!” wrote English football legend Gary Lineker on X, formerly Twitter. Many observers recalled the particular story of the 29-year-old goalscorer, who in the summer of 2022, shortly after his departure from the Ajax Amsterdam After Dortmund, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. After several months of treatment, Haller returned to the field.

Crazy situation for Ivory Coast

His goals and assists enabled BVB to achieve a splendid comeback in the second half of last season. But when the championship seemed almost perfect, the forward's nerves failed him. His missed penalty on matchday 34 against Mainz (2-2) contributed to the lost title and at the same time began Haller's sporting decline in Dortmund. So far this season, he has only started four Bundesliga games and has not scored a goal in a total of eleven appearances.

The loss of the championship title caused him more pain than the cancer diagnosis, as he told Sport-Bild in the fall. “Failed situations or missed opportunities wear you down. You think about what you could have done better. But especially during my illness, I also learned to stop letting negative things affect me so much.”

Despite BVB's sporting misery, Haller impressed in the crucial moments of the African Cup. He only in the semi-final against the Democratic Republic of the Congo (1-0) and in the final he was allowed to play from the beginning. He scored the decisive goal twice. Their story fits with the crazy tournament run of the hosts, who were almost eliminated after a disastrous 4-0 defeat in the preliminary round against Equatorial Guinea. As third in the group, the Ivorians sneaked into the knockout phase, but without their coach Jean-Louis Gasset, from whom they parted ways with great fanfare.

Assistant Emerse Faé took over, especially since preferred candidate and former national coach Hervé Renard was not quickly available. “I would have loved it, but fate decided otherwise,” said Renard, who now coaches French footballers, in an interview with the Canal Plus television channel.

So fate encouraged Faé, who after the well-deserved final victory against Nigeria stated: “It has been an extraordinary tournament.” For him, for them Ivory Coast – and especially for Sébastien Haller.