The professional footballer from Borussia Dortmund, Sébastien Haller, experienced an emotional moment as he was overcome with tears after scoring the decisive 2-1 goal for Ivory Coast in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations against Nigeria. A reporter who was present at the scene offered him a comforting hug, and Haller couldn’t help but shed a few more tears. “We have dreamed of this moment so often,” he said, expressing his joy and relief. This victory marks the third title for Ivory Coast after their victories in 1992 and 2015, making it an exceptionally special event for Haller.
England’s football legend Gary Lineker responded to Haller’s triumphant moment with a playful “Haller-lujah!” on X, the platform previously known as Twitter. Many who witnessed this event were also reminded of the unique and inspiring journey of the 29-year-old striker. Haller was diagnosed with testicular cancer in the summer of 2022, not long after he transferred from Ajax Amsterdam to Dortmund. This setback, however, didn’t deter him from his passion. After undergoing several months of treatment, Haller made a strong comeback to the football field.
Haller’s exceptional performance, including his goals and assists, played a crucial role in BVB’s stunning comeback during the second half of the previous season. Despite this, when the championship seemed within reach, Haller missed a penalty on matchday 34 against Mainz (2-2), leading to Dortmund’s missed title opportunity. This failure marked the beginning of a challenging phase in Haller’s sporting career in Dortmund. Up until now, Haller has only started four Bundesliga games in the current season and has yet to score a goal in his eleven appearances.
In an interview with “Sport Bild” in the fall, Haller revealed that the lost championship title pained him more than his cancer diagnosis. He explained how missed opportunities and unsuccessful situations cause distress, leading to thoughts of what could have been done better. However, he also shared that his illness taught him to avoid letting negativity affect him too much.
Despite the challenging circumstances at BVB, Haller’s performance during the Africa Cup was nothing short of remarkable. He managed to score the decisive goal twice, once in the semi-final against the Democratic Republic of Congo (1-0), and then in the final, despite only being allowed to start in these two games.
The Ivory Coast team also had a remarkable journey in the tournament. After a disastrous 4-0 defeat in the preliminary round against Equatorial Guinea, they barely made it to the knockout phase as the third in the group. The team also had to part ways with their coach Jean-Louis Gasset amidst much drama, leading to assistant Emerse Faé taking over. This unexpected twist came about as their preferred candidate and former national coach Hervé Renard was not available at short notice.
After the Ivory Coast’s well-deserved final win against Nigeria, Faé described the tournament as “extraordinary.” Indeed, it was an extraordinary tournament for him, for the Ivory Coast, and most especially for Sébastien Haller, whose inspiring journey adds a unique touch to the story of this tournament.