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.
“You know me, you know my attitude, I believe we will be there (in the final).”
A stage had been erected just outside the arrivals hall at OR Tambo where Mosimane, Mbalula and club chairman Patrice Motsepe, among others, addressed the crowd and captain Hlompho Kekana showed off the trophy.
Billionaire owner Motsepe praised Mosimane and his players, many of them wearing their winners’ medals around the neck as they looked on, as he spoke.
“We have very talented people,” mining magnate Motsepe said. “And we have always said if you give our people a chance, they will do well.”
Sundowns have little time to celebrate however as they return to action on Thursday, hosting Polokwane City in a League Cup tie exactly 36 hours after landing in Johannesburg.
The team nicknamed ‘the Brazilians’ were unable to get a flight home on Monday from Egypt so travelled to Cairo from Alexandria for an overnight stay.
Mosimane had the players on the training pitch on Monday to prepare for Thursday’s match although he is expected to rest many key players for the tie.
Sundowns now have a tough catch-up programme as they have played just one Premier Soccer League game this season while most clubs have already played six.
Their next league game is at home to Cape Town City in Pretoria on Sunday.