The South African women's senior national team received a hero's welcome upon their return home following their impressive performance in Ghana that saw them finish second in the Total Women's Africa Cup of Nations Ghana 2018.
While a second-place finish may be unfortunate for the South Africans who were one of the title contenders with their enterprising brand of football, the runner up finish saw them book a place in next year's FIFA Women's World Cup - a first for the Southern African nation.
In emotional and jubilant scenes at the OR Tambo Airport, Banyana Banyana arrived at a jam-packed airport of fans chanting their name in a hero's welcome that has never been seen before for the women's national team.
Thousands of fans, the South African FA leadership and government officials roared with praise and excitement as Banyana Banyana walked out to a memorable hero's welcome in Johannesburg.
Even after coming short of winning the continental showpiece following a heartbreaking 4-3 penalty shootout defeat to their old-time nemesis Nigeria, the South Africans did well to put a smile on the faces of a nation who have only enjoyed national team success through their women's teams lately.
Banyana Banyana won two back-to-back COSAFA Cup titles, were voted CAF Women's team of the year and have for the first time secured a place in a FIFA Women's World Cup. The South African U17 women's side on the other hand recently represented the country in Uruguay at the U17 World Cup even though they bowed out in the group stages.
Speaking at the OR Tambo International Airport upon arrival, coach Desiree Ellis thanked the support of the fans, saying that it went a long way in helping the team reach the finals.
The support from South Africans has been amazing. We felt the love all the way from Ghana and the girls played their hearts out knowing that the people back home were watching and cheering said the former Banyana Banyana captain.
Ellis urged South Africans to continue to rally behind the team when they go to France next year. Banyana Banyana will be joined by reigning champions, Nigeria and Cameroon in the world showpiece.
In preparation for the trip to France, Banyana Banyana will once again face Sweden early in January, a match Ellis says will be crucial in their preparations.
It will be important for us to play a side like Sweden bearing in mind that we will be facing stiff international competition in France. It's important for the girls to get a sense for such and fortunately the AFCON has instilled a sense of confidence and experience in the team. We have a good foundation to build on and continue working hard from there said Ellis.
Source: Confederation Africaine de Football (CAF)