Residents throng airport to meet Paraguay’s ‘White and Red’

2010-06-04 00:00

THE people of Pietermaritzburg came in large numbers to witness the arrival of Team Paraguay at Oribi Airport yesterday.

Amasinamuva cultural dancers from Mpofana in the midlands welcomed the La Albirroja (White & Red) with song and dance that captured a truly African welcome.

Upon arrival, Roque Luis Santa Cruz Cantero, one of Paraguay’s strikers currently plying his trade with English Premier League club Manchester City, said: “We had a fine trip because we had enough rest. We are very confident we are going to do our level best to compete against anyone.”

He said the South American teams that are here for the World Cup are all good. However, he believes Paraguay have prepared well for the world’s biggest soccer tournament.

“We are very happy to be here,” said Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz joined the Olimpia youth division at the age of nine, where he was the top scorer for several seasons until the head coach of Olimpia’s first team, Luis Cubilla, invited the 15-year-old to practise with the first team.

His professional debut with the first team was on July 27, 1998, in the Paraguayan Super Clásico against Cerro Porteño, at the age of 16.

Santa Cruz’s club performance led Olimpia to a Paraguayan championship in 1998 and 1999. He went on to win the Paraguayan Footballer of the Year award that same year.

Girls’ High pupil Sarah Murless, who was at the airport to welcome the Paraguayans, said, “It was exciting to see the team arriving; I’m really proud of my country. There’s so many cultures, people of all ages and it is all so cool to see this happening.”

She said the team’s arrival makes the World Cup a reality. “We need to show them that our country is the best in the whole world,” Murless said.

“The vibe is just contagious. Everyone is just so excited.”

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