The elephants will remember this - two heroes stronger than illness took Ivory Coast to the top of Africa

The "accidental" selector Emers Fae, who ended his career due to illness at the age of 28 during the Africa Cup of Nations, took over the selection and wrote history - decisive goals in the semi-finals and final were scored by Sebastián Ale, a guy who beat a tumor a year ago

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Emers Fae and Sebastian Ale, heroes of Ivory Coast, Photo: Reuters
Emers Fae and Sebastian Ale, heroes of Ivory Coast, Photo: Reuters

One faced death due to illness, the other had to end his career at the age of 28 - this February they wrote one of the most beautiful stories in football history.

The Ivory Coast is the new champion of Africa, and the way this team reached the crown deserved to be on the screen one day, to be written about in books...

The land of elephants is celebrating - mostly, though, thanks to "accidental" coach Emers Fae and Borussia Dortmund's phenomenal striker Sebastian Ale.

Fae was born in France 40 years ago, he was a solid midfielder, and he played 41 games for the Ivory Coast... When in Nice he might have been able to play his best games due to blood clots in his legs already at the age of 28, he had to finish his career.

He started a coaching job, was the selector of the young national team of his country, and this January, as an assistant in the professional staff of the "Elephants", he started the long-awaited African Cup of Nations, which was organized by the Ivory Coast.

The whole nation dreamed of a big story, but everything went wrong for the "Oranges". Ivory Coast defeated Guinea-Bissau at the start, and then lost the next two matches in the group - to Nigeria (1:0) and Equatorial Guinea (4:0)...

The host was already seen in the precipice, without the knockout stage, but fate wanted the results of the other groups to be arranged like that (before all the victories of Morocco over Zambia) and that the "elephants" went on - as the worst of the four third-placed teams from all the groups that were won the round of 16.

It was a sign that the Football Association of this country made an unusual move - in the middle of the tournament, they fired coach Jean-Louis Gase, and Fae took his place.

Everything from that moment is history - Ivory Coast "removed the crown" from Senegal after penalties, eliminated Mali after extra time, and in the match for placement in the grand final, Congo was better. A new match with Nigeria followed, this time for the Africa Cup, the host lost again, but managed to turn it around (2:1) and pin the third star next to his coat of arms.

The decisive goals in the semi-finals and the final (his only ones in the championship) were scored by the second hero of this story - Sebastian Ale.

And it simply had to be him - the guy who, after scoring many goals for Ajax, was supposed to take a key step in his career at Borussia in 2022, found out that he had a testicular tumor and that he would have to fight for his life.

In February of last year, he announced that he had defeated cancer, and that this month is special for him, he showed these days in Abidjan.

Elephants are said to remember the longest, and people in a country that was once home to one of Africa's largest populations of these animals will remember the incredible football story of Ale, Fae and the other orange-cloaked heroes for as long as they exist.

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