History-making Kenya national men basketball team, the Morans, landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) early Monday bringing business in a busy airport to a standstill.
The national team received a hero’s welcome from Kenyans who mobbed the players with loads of selfie requests.
Morans grabbed the headlines on saturday with an impressive performance finishing second in the inaugural FIBA Africa Cup of Nations (AfroCan) in Bamako, Mali.
Nations’ Championship (Afro-CAN) silver medallists from Bamako, Mali touched down at dawn, song and dance was already renting the morning air of the usually quiet airport.
The carnival atmosphere was further amplified by the loud music that was blaring from the roadshow caravans provided by Nairobi governor Mike Sonko, complete with the branding of the Morans’ photos from recent tournaments.
Players and the technical bench streamed out to an eagerly waiting welcome party that included Sports Principal Secretary Kirimi Kaberia.
As Kenyans mobbed the national team players with ‘selfie’ requests after their impressive display, reaching the team’s first-ever final in a continental event, the pain of losing to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the final match was forgotten. Players basked in the glory, joining fans in gyrating to the tunes.
The caravan made its way from JKIA to the governor’s office in the central business district (CBD) where they were hosted to breakfast and awarded Sh1 million as a token of appreciation for their exploits in Mali.
In his welcome speech, Sonko pledged his support for basketball and all other sports in Kenya, promising that the second phase of the ongoing stadia renovations will include indoor courts to help grow sports like basketball, volleyball, handball among others.
“We cannot thank the government and governor Sonko enough. From the qualifiers to finishing second in Africa, there was immense support from them and from our sponsors. As a federation, we vow not to let this wave die. We are going to build on this success and make the sport even better,” said KBF chairperson Paul Otula.
Kenya players Tyler Ongwae and Tom ‘Bush’ Wamukota made it to the ‘All-Star five of the tournament’.
Despite the loss, the morans left Mali heads up having qualified for a continental showpiece for the first time in 26 years and going all the way to the final, beating some of the continent’s best teams in the process.