October 27, 2016 By Sahr Morris Jr.
Mamelodi Sundowns have arrived back home in South Africa to a heroes’ welcome after winning the African Champions League on Sunday.
Thousands of football fans gathered at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg to congratulate them.
“I’m humbled to hear everyone chanting my name,” said Pitso Mosimane, the first South African coach to win the continent’s premier club competition.
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula gave the players $1,450 each as a reward.
“Sundowns didn’t only represent themselves but our nation,” Mbalula tweeted.
“20,000 rand ($1,450) to a player to show our appreciation is little but a sign of gratitude.”
Although Sundowns lost 1-0 against Egyptian opponents Zamalek in Alexandria on Sunday, they won the final 3-1 on aggregate following a strong showing at home the previous weekend.
They are only the second South African side to be crowned Africa’s club champions, after Orlando Pirates became the first in 1995.
Pirates’ success predated the Club World Cup by five years, meaning that Sundowns will become the first South Africans to contest the Fifa tournament.
December’s Club World Cup in Japan features the reigning club champions from every continent, with Real Madrid of Spain representing Europe.
“Minister Mbalula, or was it (South African FA president) Danny Jordaan, said ‘do not be surprised to see Sundowns in the final’,” Mosimane announced.
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“You know me, you know my attitude, I believe we will be there (in the final).”