Fresh off the national team’s victory in the Africa Cup of Nations this month, Senegal on Tuesday inaugurated a new 50,000-seat stadium at a ceremony attended by African and European heads of state and global sporting dignitaries.
The Turkish-built Abdoulaye Wade Stadium in Senegal’s new showpiece city of Diamniadio is part of a drive by President Macky Sall to develop the West African country’s infrastructure. The stadium, which will host the Summer Youth Olympics in 2026, was filled with fans waving Senegal’s green, yellow and red flag.
Also in attendance were the presidents of Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, Rwanda, Turkey and Germany as well as Gianni Infantino, the president of world football governing body FIFA, and African football greats Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o.
“It is in this beautiful den that our valiant lions will celebrate their conquest of Africa and the world,” Sall told the crowd.
National pride is high after Senegal, led by Liverpool forward Sadio Mane, claimed its first Africa Cup of Nations title by defeating Egypt on February 6 in Cameroon.
The stadium, named after former president Abdoulaye Wade, whom Sall defeated in a bitterly-contested 2012 election, is Senegal’s latest high-profile infrastructure project. A basketball arena across the street from the stadium was completed in 2018, and a USD 1.3 billion commuter railway was inaugurated in December.
Sall’s opponents, however, have questioned whether these projects will benefit average citizens as much as they do Senegal’s tiny elite.
Senegal, who beat Egypt for to take the African title, meet the Pharaohs again in a World Cup qualifier.
Senegal has also launched a programme to refurbish its stadiums before Dakar hosts of the Summer Youth Olympics in 2026.
The country’s biggest sporting venue is the 60,000-capacity Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium built in Dakar in 1985. – AFP