14 February 2024 – Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) bronze medalists Bafana Bafana returned home to a thunderous welcome at OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesday morning after making the country proud in Côte d’Ivoire   during the recently concluded continental tournament.

The South African senior men’s team walked away with the bronze medal at AFCON after beating DR Congo 6-5 on penalties in the tournament’s third-place playoffs.

A huge crowd gathered at the airport from 2am and patiently waited for coach Hugo Broos and his team to arrive later in the morning on Valentine’s Day.

Sports Minister Zizi Kodwa thanked the team for restoring the country’s pride and also gave special mention to the small band of members of the media who travelled to Côte d’Ivoire to support the team.

“I want to once more thank you coach for bringing this moment of hope to the country. We have not had this moment with Bafana Bafana for the longest time,” he said.

“You have brought us hope. You have brought us a game-changer in football. I thank SAFA for their leadership. I hope as we go along we’ll make sure that we create a pipeline to ensure that with this small opportunity, we now have building blocks for a national team.”

SAFA President Dr Danny Jordaan thanked Broos, CAF President Dr Patrice Motsepe and the people of Côte d’Ivoire for making the tournament a huge success.

“I want again to thank the coach. We started a long journey, we had many fights with the coach and he is not going to run away from a fight,” he said.

“He runs towards a fight. And you know that he has very strong views and is not afraid to express it. In the end, you could see the team shaping up and the team that played was his creation. I want to thank him for not stepping back, being relentless in pursuit of building the team that he thought would win the AFCON.”

Williams, who was named the best goalkeeper of the tournament, kept five clean sheets at AFCON and only conceded three goals at the event, said the achievement has not sunk in yet.

“We’re still living in the moment. It still feels unreal, what we’ve achieved over the last few weeks,” he said. “We’ve seen all the messages and all the records that we’ve broken as a team. And, you know, of course, you’re in the moment and you’re thinking about the next game. You don’t look for praise or you go on and on about these things.

“You just want to do well in the next game. So, I’m just proud of the boys for the brotherhood, the brotherhood we had from day one. The spirit amongst us has been good. I think that is one of the reasons we’ve been successful is the spirit, the group, the togetherness.”

Broos thanked his players, the members of his technical team and the team’s staff for their relentless effort in the past seven weeks. He said many of them worked tirelessly behind scenes for long hours and until the early hours of the morning, with very little recognition.

“So, this is the work of a whole team, a whole team that I asked for,” the Bafana Bafana coach said. “I remember the first day of our camp, I asked them together and I said, ‘look, I just want one thing, that everybody works for the good of the team.’ They did it and I think that is the reason, one of the reasons why we achieved that fantastic third place. So, again, a happy coach, a proud coach and I thank everybody for that.”