Sebastien Haller: From Cancer to AFCON Champion, the Story of Ivory Coast’s Star

Sebastien Haller: From Cancer to AFCON Champion, the Story of Ivory Coast’s Star

Chukwu Ikechukwu
February 15, 2024 at 9:07 AM
In this article:
Sébastien Haller logo
Borussia Dortmund logoFIvory Coast logo
Ivory Coast logo
Cote DIvoire
Ivory Coast
CAF Africa Cup of Nations logo
Borussia Dortmund logo
Borussia Dortmund
Nigeria logo
  • Sebastien Haller won Ivory Coast their 3rd AFCON title
  • The forward scored the winning goal against Nigeria
  • Haller was battling with cancer just 18 months ago

Sebastien Haller’s rise from the ashes is one of football’s remarkable stories of the last few years as the Ivory Coast forward sealed an incredible comeback by winning the Africa Cup of Nations.

The Borussia Dortmund forward’s goal against Nigeria in the 2023 AFCON final was the climax of his inspirational story that has seen him battle from being diagnosed with cancer to becoming an African champion.

Sebastian Haller, Ivory Coast, AFCON
Sebastien Haller celebrates winning the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast with his teammates and First Lady. Photo by Sia Kambou.
Source: Getty Images

Haller's battle with cancer began 18 months before the start of the AFCON when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in July 2022, thereby ruling him out of action for over a year, Al Jazeera reports.

The forward had just joined Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund from Ajax and was in pre-season with his new club when the results of the diagnoses came in.

Haller would further undergo two surgeries and four rounds of chemotherapy that aided his recovery as he was back training after six full months of treatment.

From cancer recovery to AFCON squad

Haller resumed full training in early January 2023, making his Borussia Dortmund debut later that month and scoring against Freiburg on World Cancer Day, in one of those bizarre coincidences, BBC reports.

The 29-year-old forward was named in Ivory Coast’s Africa Cup of Nations squad despite carrying a knock that made him miss the whole group phase as the Elephants stared at elimination from the competition too early.

Ivory Coast sacked coach Jean-Louis Gasset and got a second chance in the competition when they progressed to the Round of 16 just hours later as Zambia failed to get the result needed to finish above them.

Haller steps up when needed

Haller earned his first start of the AFCON in the semi-finals against DR Congo, and the Borussia Dortmund attacker made an impact with an unusual finish midway through the second period at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium.

In the final, Ivory Coast came from a goal down as they dug deep to seal a memorable 2-1 win against the Super Eagles with the 29-year-old forward grabbing the winning goal with less than 10 minutes to go.

Haller was born in Paris to a French father and an Ivorian mother. He played at every youth level for France, from Under-16 to Under-21, but in 2020, he switched his senior international career to Ivory Coast, where he is now regarded as an icon after helping them to their third AFCON victory.

Haller happy to beat cancer

Earlier, Sports Brief reported that Haller admitted that last year was difficult for him as a player following his battle with testicular cancer.

The forward scored the winning goal as Ivory Coast defeated Nigeria 2-1 to win the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations on home soil.

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Chukwu Ikechukwu
Chukwu Ikechukwu Godwin is a journalist with over 9 years of experience in the Nigerian media industry. He has worked both in Radio (Today FM, Rhythm FM, Wish FM) and Television (Silverbird TV) as a Sports Analyst..