Mbeki calls for big Bafana welcome
Mbeki calls for big Bafana welcome

Posted in News on Jun 12, 2002.

President Thabo Mbeki on Wednesday led calls for 'a heroes'

welcome' to be accorded Bafana Bafana on their return from South Korea, where their World Cup campaign ended with their elimination following a narrow defeat by Spain in their last match of the first round.

Speaking from Libya, north Africa, where he is attending a

bilateral economic meeting, Mbeki said: "Bafana Bafana showed character in losing to Spain -- a World Cup powerhouse.

"Their loss is not a disgrace as we showed great fighting

spirit. Indeed we fought like lions. Even in defeat, Bafana

displayed great dignity and made us proud".

Paying tribute to coach Jomo Sono, his technical staff and team captain Lucas Radebe, Mbeki urged the nation to give them a big welcome.

"Let us welcome them back home as heroes," he said.

Sports Minister Ngconde Balfour said that despite the team's

loss to Spain, the tournament itself was a triumph for the South African squad.

"We showed that we can take on the best and the manner in which we came back from setbacks was a reflection of the tenacity of our boys," he said.

Balfour said he would personally invite the team to Parliament

so that the country's leaders can express their joy and

appreciation to the team for representing the nation with honour and distinction.

Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa said the provincial government would throw a big welcome party -- open to the public -- when the team returns.

Shilowa said the squad had performed above themselves and

carried the country's flag very high throughout their participation in the tournament.

"They also proved that South Africa has the ability to compete

and do well against the best footballing countries of the world," he said.

Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon said the team had done the nation proud and fared much better than some previous cup winners.

"What could be a day of national mourning should actually be a day of celebrating because our team have given one of the best teams in the world a run for their money, and ran them hard," he said.

Leon said he hoped the team would "return to a heroes' welcome that they richly deserve", and that all South Africans would now throw their weight behind Senegal -- the only African team still in the running for the Cup.

"Just remember the most important lesson from this World Cup: winners don't quit and quitters don't win."

The SA Communist Party said it congratulated the team and

saluted national team coach Jomo Sono and his staff for their

leadership and preparation of our team.

SACP spokesman Mazibuko Jara said Bafana Bafana had kept the African flag flying high, playing with pride, skill and commitment throughout the tournament.

"We salute their sterling effort and dedication. Their

performance has proved that African football has matured and is a contender on the world stage. We know that all of South Africa will welcome them with proud hands and painful hearts," he said.

The organisation also wished Senegal and all other remaining

countries the best for the tournament, he said.

The Congress of SA Trade Unions said the team's skill and

fighting spirit had proved that South African soccer ranks among the finest in the world.

Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said the squad was an

inspiration to the nation and showed that nothing would be

impossible in the future.

"Cosatu wishes the team well in forthcoming competitions and

looks forward eagerly to 2006 in Germany, when we will complete the unfinished business we started so well in Korea."

In Parliament, Speaker Frene Ginwala told subdued members during her customary opening remarks: "All the collective force of our efforts did not succeed. Nonetheless, we wish Bafana Bafana well. We think they played a great game".

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