Black Stars shine as fans bid them a fond farewell

IN TRUE South African style,hundreds of people braved a cold winter afternoon in Soweto and at Melrose Arch yesterday to bid Ghana's Black Stars a fond farewell.

At 1pm, locals were already waiting for the team at Vilakazi Street in Orlando West, Soweto. Waving Ghanaian and South African flags, singing and blowing vuvuzelas, they patiently waited for the team.

And when the team's bus arrived the crowd went wild. One by one the players stood at the door of the bus and waved back, showing their appreciation to South Africans.

Then it was off to Melrose Arch Emporium, where about 1000 people had gathered.

The brave Black Stars leave the country today after losing 4-2 on penalties to Uruguay on Friday in the World Cup quarterfinals, the last African side in the tournament.

Yesterday, young and old fans carrying placards came out in their numbers to show their undying love for the team at a parade.

Some of the placards read: "Africa is destined to survive", and "Who says Black Stars can't shine".

At Melrose Arch Captain John Mensah said: "We are very happy to see all of you here. Thank you for the love and support you have shown us.

"We all know we deserve better. We should have been in the semifinals. We, the African continent, still have a chance in four years' time. We will do it."

Ghana's youth and sports minister Akua Sena Dansua said: "Thank you for the hospitality you've shown the national team. We came to South Africa as representatives of Ghana, but we leave as representatives of South Africa. We leave with fond memories. You will always be in our minds and hearts."

Dansua also thanked Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela for hosting the team at the Mandela home in Houghton on Saturday.

Ghanaian Rachel Duah said: "I'm very happy. It's been a wonderful experience. Ghana played really well and I am proud of them.

"This tournament has brought us together. People have come out to cheer the players and it's amazing."