Winning the CAF Beach Soccer Championship completes a remarkable ascendancy for the Senegal. Judging by their manner of their success, they may yet go on to reach even greater heights.
In July 2007, the Lions of Teranga discovered their discipline and, despite barely a week's training, managed to qualify for the world's premier beach soccer event. Less than a year later, Amadou Diop's men have now clinched the continental title.
"I'd like to dedicate this trophy to the whole country and particularly to our friends and families, who have supported us throughout this adventure. I want to thank all those who have enabled us to come here to Durban and create history," declared the delighted coach.
Most of all, however, the Lions have themselves to thank for their triumphant campaign. Having reached the quarter-finals of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup last November on Copacabana beach, only to be eliminated by France in a penalty shoot-out, they have since had to work hard to iron out their weaknesses.
Protected at the back by Seyni Ndiaye, widely regarded as the best goalkeeper in Africa, and inspired by the goals of Pape Koukpaki and Gomis Mbengue, who scored four times in the Final, the west Africans tasted defeat only once in the entire tournament. That was on the second day, a narrow 4-5 extra-time loss against Egypt, who eventually finished fourth. Despite this setback, Senegal ended the competition with the best scoring record and the best defence. The Lions of Teranga made light work of Cameroon in the Final, romping to the title with a 12-6 victory.
Although they missed out on the continental trophy, the Indomitable Lions also qualify for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, two years after exiting Rio de Janeiro 2006 in the first round. "We had to qualify to bring honour to our country," said defender and team captain Moudio Bertrand Abissonono. "We're ready for Marseille!"
Louis Bertin Ewane and his charges have reaped the rewards for their highly professional approach to the competition. Made up of some of the best players from the national 11-a-side team, the Cameroon squad spent three weeks finalising their preparations in the build-up to the competition. With an attack spearheaded by Franck Augustin Batoum, scorer of 11 goals in 4 matches, the Indomitable Lions can now aspire to success on the global stage.
It remains to be seen whether their ambition can be turned into achievement in Marseille between 17 and 27 July 2008.
CAFBeachSoccer Championship25-30 March 2008, Durban(South Africa)
*Cameroon 8-3 Cape Verde
Egypt 8-3 Mozambique
Nigeria 4-5 Côte d'Ivoire
South Africa 4-8 Senegal
*Côte d'Ivoire 6-8 Cameroon
Senegal 4-5 aet Egypt
Cape Verde 2-12 Nigeria
Mozambique 3-2 South Africa
*Côte d'Ivoire 2-2 (0-1 on penalties) Cape Verde
Senegal 10-0 Mozambique
Nigeria 3-3 (2-3 on penalties) Cameroon
South Africa 4-3 Egypt
*Cameroon 4-3 Egypt
Senegal 6-5 aet Côte d'Ivoire
Play-off for third place*
*Egypt 3-6 Côte d'Ivoire
*Cameroon 6-12 Senegal