We examine why Ivory Coast’s defeat of Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations may have just marked the greatest AFCON yet. Ivory Coast’s Sebastien Haller celebrates scoring the winning goal in the 2023 AFCON final only 18 months after being diagnosed with cancer.

As Ivory Coast came from a goal down to beat Nigeria and complete the most remarkable of sporting redemptions, it also encapsulated not only their journey but that of a tournament, a continent, and a man.

The 2-1 victory in the final for the Elephants was a huge achievement against the Super Eagles, who were heavy favorites and led by the African Footballer of the Year, Victor Osimhen.

The Catholic Bishops of Ivory Coast are thankful to God for enabling the West African nation to organize and emerge the winner of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) that concluded on Sunday, February 11.

Ivory Coast hosted the 34th edition of Afcon, the 2024 competition that brought together 24 African countries that qualified for the tournament.

In an interview with our correspondent minutes after Ivory Coast’s 2-1 comeback over Nigeria, one of the bishops in this country used the analogy of “death” and “resurrection” of Jesus Christ to recall the journey of the Ivorian national team to claiming a third Afcon victory.

“We thank God for giving us the grace to organize and to win. May His name be blessed,” he concluded.

The Ivorian Catholic Bishop added, “Ivory Coast died, and on the third day; Ivory Coast resurrected. After the resurrection, Ivory Coast cannot die again.”

Let us not forget that Ivory Coast lost two of its three group-stage matches, including the 4-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea after it had lost 1-0 to Nigeria. As the country was experiencing disappointing results, the Ivorian Football Federation fired its coach.

The qualification of Ivory Coast for the knockout stage came thanks to a Morocco win over Zambia in another group. It qualified as one of the four best third-placed teams. The West African nation tried unsuccessfully to hire another coach.

In its match against the defending champion, Senegal, taunted as the strongest team in the tournament, Ivory Coast won through penalties after extra time.

In the semifinals, Ivory Coast defeated the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by a single goal.

In a statement issued Monday, February 12, members of the Episcopal Conference of Ivory Coast (CECCI) “congratulate the Elephants of Ivory Coast on their fine victory.”

The West African nation first won the continental football tournament in 1992. The country also won the 2015 Afcon.

Winning the tournament as a host country, Ivory Coast follows Egypt, the North African nation that lifted the trophy in 2006.

The Elephants pick up US$7m in prize money, with Nigeria handed US$4m by the Confederation of African Football.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu