AFCON 2023: The Story of Emerse Fae, Ivory Coast Hero Who Led Country to Glory

AFCON 2023: The Story of Emerse Fae, Ivory Coast Hero Who Led Country to Glory

Fred Kennedy
updated at February 12, 2024 at 8:55 AM
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  • Emerse Fae took charge of Ivory Coast midway through the 2023 AFCON
  • The ex-midfielder was named the interim boss after Gasset was sacked
  • Fae previously played for French side Nantes and English outfit Reading

Before the sacking of Jean-Louis Gasset midway through the start of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, Emerse Fae was little known, at least in the realms of football management.

The Ivory Coast football federation brought in Fae as a temporary replacement for Gasset, who had been sacked with the host nation on the brink of elimination in the group stages.

Ivory Coast's coach Emerse Fae speaks during a press conference at the Palais de la Culture in Abidjan. Photo by Sia Kambou.
Ivory Coast's coach Emerse Fae speaks during a press conference at the Palais de la Culture in Abidjan. Photo by Sia Kambou.
Source: Getty Images

According to BBC, Gasset was shown the door just two days after he led Ivory Coast to a 4-0 defeat against Equatorial Guinea, in what was the country's heaviest loss on home soil.

The hammering left the Elephants with slim hopes of progressing to the knockouts, having also lost to Nigeria in another Group A fixture.

Fae, who was part of Gasset's coaching staff, was subsequently appointed on an interim basis to lead the country for the remainder of the tournament.

Emerse Fae leads Ivory Coast to glory

With little to no experience in football management, Fae emerged as Ivory Coast's unlikely hero at the tournament as he helped his country win the continental showpiece in dramatic fashion.

The Elephants stunned Nigeria 2-1 in the final played on Sunday night to win the tournament for the third time in their history.

The hosts had to come from a goal down after Troost Ekong opened the scoring for Nigeria to win the trophy.

Former Barcelona star Franck Kessie and Sébastien Haller netted in the second half of the match to steer the hosts to victory.

However, the African football powerhouse had to endure a rollercoaster on their way to victory, having initially sneaked to the last 16 as one of the third-best-placed teams.

Ivory Coast's difficult route to victory saw them edge former champions Senegal in the Round of 16 before beating Mali in the quarter-final to reach the semis.

They went on to eliminate DR Congo in the semi-final to set up a crunch date with Nigeria in the final.

Who is Emerse Fae?

But who is Emerse Fae, Ivory Coast's unlikely hero in the 2023 AFCON?

Born in 1984 in France, Fae played for the European country at the youth level before he switched his allegiance to Ivory Coast.

At the club level, the 40-year-old played for Nantes before moving to Reading in 2007, per CAF.

He would later return to France with Nice, where he wound up his career in 2012 after making 57 appearances for the French club.

The former midfielder transitioned into football management upon retirement, taking charge of the Clermont reserve team in 2021.

In May 2022, he became the manager of Ivory Coast's U23 and Gasset's assistant for the senior team.

It remains to be seen if he will land the Ivory Coast job permanently after helping them win the AFCON.

Emerse Fae rejects The Special One tag

Earlier, Sports Brief reported that Ivory Coast coach Emerse Fae addressed the 'Special One' tag given to him for miraculously turning around the fortunes of the Elephants at the 2023 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations.

Fae, then assistant coach to Jean Louis-Gasset, took over the Ivorian hot seat shortly after the AFCON hosts suffered their worst defeat on home soil, a 4-0 humbling against Equatorial Guinea.

Fred Kennedy photo
Fred Kennedy
Fred Kennedy has a Bachelor's degree in journalism (Daystar University), currently working as a Sports Editor. He has more than five years of experience in digital journalism.