Newly crowned Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) champion Senegal inaugurated Tuesday a 50,000-seater stadium, the country’s only venue certified to host international football.

Thousands of Senegalese gathered for the inauguration of the stadium aimed at making the country Africa’s go-to venue for international events.

The world-class stadium in the city of Diamniadio, 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the capital Dakar, was built in just 18 months by Turkey’s Summa construction company, at a cost of 156 billion CFA francs ($270 million).

The inauguration ceremony was attended by Senegal’s President Macky Sall, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Gambia’s President Adama Barrow, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, among others dignitaries.

The venue will be named in honour of former President Abdoulaye Wade. 

Sall said during the naming of the stadium was a “tribute to the multidimensional, intellectual, pan-Africanist politician.”

“This beautiful infrastructure – dedicated to young people – is an invitation to continue our path towards excellence,” Sall said.

Jubilant crowds came by bus and train for the inauguration, which follows Senegal’s dramatic victory at the AFCON on Feb. 6.

“It’s a source of pride to have a stadium as beautiful as this Senegal. The country needed it to restore its footballing image,” said one fan, Bamba Dieng, 24.

“I’ve never seen such a great stadium. I hope it will be properly maintained so that it lasts for a very long time,” said Ibou Ngom, 29.

Mbaye Jacques Diop, a communications advisory at the ministry of sports, said the project was part of a programme to make Dakar a “sporting hub” for Africa.

It would mean an end to matches transferred to Asia because the continent lacked infrastructure, he said.

The first big competitive match at the Stadium will be held on March 29.

Senegal has launched a programme to refurbish its stadiums before Dakar hosts the Summer Youth Olympics in 2026.

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