Olympic athletes receive warm welcome
ATHLETES who returned from the Olympic Games after elimination from their respective competitions were on Thursday evening treated to a heroes’ welcome at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (KKIA) by government, sports officials, supporters and their families.
The group of athletes, who comprised Zambia women’s football team, judoka Steven Mung’andu and boxer Steven Zimba, were received by officials from National Olympic Committee of Zambia (NOCZ), Football Association of Zambia (FAZ), Zambia Boxing Federation (ZBF), Zambia Judo Association (ZJA), members of the fundraising committee for the women’s team and journalists from various media houses.
The athletes, who were in the company of their coaches, were also on hand to receive bouquets of flowers and a banner reading “welcome back” in their honour.
Government, who were represented by acting director of sports Wana Kankinza, expressed their pride in the performance of the athletes despite them being knocked out.
“We wish to congratulate all the athletes that went to the Olympics, we wish to congratulate
you for putting up a good show and a spirited fight, even though we did not achieve the results we wanted, we know that you represented us well and are very proud of your achievement.
“As a ministry (of sports) we will continue supporting not only football but also other sports.”
NOCZ described the performance of the athletes as delighting, saying although they did not return with medals, they had achieved their personal best.
“We are very delighted of the performance of our women from soccer, boxing as well as judo. We as NOCZ, we do not gauge our athletes the way the public gauges them. Our gauge is based on personal best and the women did their personal best by qualifying because they are the first team to qualify," NOCZ Treasure Victor Banda said.
For FAZ, who spoke through President Andrew Kamanga, it was an opportunity to assure the players that there would be more investment into the local women’s league to ensure more talent is discovered.
“Our aim is to elevate the women’s game to the level of the men’s and this process has already started following the creation of the FAZ Women’s Super League which is ensuring that the women’s game is fully recognised countrywide and beyond the borders,” he said.
And women’s team skipper Barbra Banda urged Kamanga’s executive to continue supporting women’s football in the country.
Other officials from ZBF, the women’s fundraising committee and coaches from football and judo also spoke during the reception and the collective message was that the athletes would be groomed for upcoming Commonwealth Games next year in Birmingham, United Kingdom and the Olympics in Paris, France, in 2024.
"...the collective message was that the athletes would be groomed for upcoming Commonwealth Games next year in Birmingham, United Kingdom and the Olympics in Paris, France, in 2024."