Senegalese hero Sadio Mane handed over the Africa Cup of Nations victory to Aliou Cisse, calling him “the most criticized coach I have ever seen in my life”.
The Liverpool striker went from zero to hero when he scored a crucial goal as Senegal beat Egypt 4-2 on penalties following a 0-0 draw in the final on Sunday when Mane missed a penalty in the seventh minute.
Sadio Mane’s penalty not only won the first Senegalese title but also the moment of redemption, missing the final goal of the 2017 quarterfinals against Cameroon.
But the 29-year-old has targeted coach Cisse, who has played 35 games for Senegal before taking over in 2015, to offer the win.
“I know the people of Senegal have suffered a lot but I give this trophy to Aliou Cisse,” Mane told the media, commenting on criticism from the Lions of Teranga manager ahead of the game. “If you know what you did to the team.”
Mane added: “When I missed the penny first I thought of Aliou Cisse. When I hit the last penny, I just thought of Aliou Cisse.”
Cisse, who came second in the Afcon in 2002 when playing, praised the current generation led by Mane and Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy who saved Mohanad Lasheen’s spot-kick to set a moment of fame for his teammates.
“It really proves the mental strength of this generation,” Cisse said. “We are African champions.
“For a long time, it was difficult, and there were difficult times, but we did not give up.
“This too was a difficult game; we missed the peacock, there are some opportunities we could not take advantage of, but the boys never quit the job.
“We are very happy to give the victory to the people of Senegal because from independence until now we have been chasing this first win in this tournament.”