Africa Cup of Nations: Haller writes his own fairy tale

Henry

There are many fairy tales in sports.

Sebastien Haller, the hero of the Ivory Coast football team, can testify to that after he scored his team’s winning goal in the Elephants’ 2-1 victory over Nigeria in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday evening in the Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan.

Haller, who played for France’s youth teams, chose the Ivory Coast over the French and his decision has now paid off.

But two years ago, his career was in tatters after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

His career was at a crossroads and he could so easily have thrown in the towel.

He did not lie down, underwent months of chemotherapy and was able to resume his career.

But then fate struck again when he injured his ankle in December 2023.

He was included in the team, but missed the first three games.

He regained his fitness and raised the Ivory Coast from the ashes after the Elephants were beaten twice, including 4-0 by Equatorial Guinea.

“It wasn’t easy for the players and there were words and moments for the players, officials, everyone, but it was necessary,” Haller said after the team’s victory over Nigeria.

The Ivory Coast was crowned African Cup champion for the third time on Sunday evening.

The Elephants earned 7 million US dollars in prize money with his first place.

* As one of the four teams that reached the semi-finals, Bafana Bafana earned $2.5 million (about R47 million).

Bafana Bafana’s goalkeeper Ronwen Williams, who also won the bronze medal, was named the best goalkeeper at the tournament and Bafana also won the Fair Play Award.