Senegal coach Aliou Cisse still looks back at the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations with a sense of unfinished business, so Saturday’s quarter-final against Cameroon offers a chance, partly, to settle an old score.
The Lions of Teranga have never won the continental trophy, but they came mighty close 15 years ago in Mali when they reached the final for the first time. The other Lions, the Indomitable ones, stood in their way that day in Bamako and it was the Cameroon of Samuel Eto’o and Marc-Vivien Foe who came out on top in a penalty shoot-out following a goalless 120 minutes.
Cisse, the midfielder and captain, missed Senegal’s last penalty that day and both he and the country are still waiting to lift the Cup of Nations. “A sense of unfinished business, a job not yet accomplished,” Cisse told AFP in Franceville when asked for his memories of 2002.
“It is true that every day we say to the players: ‘Don’t make the error that we made’.
“When you have the possibility to write history, it’s now, not tomorrow. In 2002, we were 25, 26 years old and we said to ourselves: ‘No worries, in 2004 we will win it.
“And we still haven’t won it. It is a regret.”
Now 40, Cisse skippered Senegal during that all too brief golden generation as they also made it to the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. It was a year Cisse will never forget for multiple reasons — in the September he lost a dozen members of his own family in a ferry disaster.
He needed remarkable strength of character to come through that and continue his career at the top level.