Senegal Finds a Party in Seoul

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[an error occurred while processing this directive]Ablaye Thiam donned his giant jester's hat, balanced a two-foot wide drum on his hip and came looking for a party. He found a doozy on Friday night in Seoul, where in the first game of this year's footy fiesta, tiny Senegal toppled reigning World Cup champs France 1-0. "Today a black African nation has beat a white European champion," said Thiam, who traveled from Senegalese capital Dakar to cheer on the Lions. "There is a god, and I love him."

God also apparently favored the Senegalese. Led by the lightening moves of 21-year-old striker El Hadji Diouf, who was the 2001 African Footballer of the Year, the Lions stunned an uninspired French side, which was unable to capitalize on any of 9 shots on goal (Nor were they able to convert any of 10 corner kicks; the Senegalese had none).

As the French fans sat in shock, the Senegalese crowd — many of whom were, in truth, surrogate Senegalese, Koreans wearing the yellow jerseys of the African team — bounced to the beat of Ablaye Thiam's drum. As the minutes wore down and the French still couldn't produce an equalizer, the thrum grew ever louder. "I am the heart of our team," said Thiam, pounding the instrument with a leather mallet. "Boom-boom. Boom-boom. Can you hear it? My heart is so happy today."

And with that, the man in the jester hat danced a little jig of joy. A pair of passing Korean teenagers, unused to such physical displays of happiness, giggled and asked to have their picture taken with this strange dancing man. Thiam obliged, wrapping his arms around the girls. "Dance with me," he said. The girls responded with a nervous shuffle. Thiam tapped his drum. The girls grew braver and produced a saucy two-step. Thiam grinned and shook their hands. So commenced one of the most improbable starts to any World Cup. The party was officially ready to begin.