Ghana gives Black Stars heroes' welcome after World Cup

Thousands of dancing and singing fans welcomed the players

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Ghana's national football team has arrived back home from the World Cup in South Africa to a rapturous welcome.

Thousands of dancing and singing fans welcomed the players - known as the Black Stars - at Accra's airport.

"You've really held high the flag of Ghana and the entire African continent," Deputy Sports Minister Nii Nortey Duah told the players.

The team is due to parade through Accra, to be followed by a free music concert in their honour on Tuesday.

Ghana, the only African team to progress beyond the group stage, went out to Uruguay in the quarter-final.

It is the first time the World Cup has been played in Africa, and many had hoped an African squad would progress to the semi-finals.

At the scene

Several hundred fans cheered as Ghana's Black Stars players walked up a red carpet laid on the tarmac from their scheduled flight from South Africa.

They were also formally greeted by a welcoming party of ministers, deputy ministers and football officials. With music, whistles and vuvuzelas blaring, it was a very joyous and celebratory occasion.

Ghana captain Stephen Appiah took the microphone and said: "I'm not a prophet, but definitely we're going to qualify for 2014... we're going to Brazil to be major contenders."

His attitude and the positive vibrations from the fans make up for the blues most Ghanaians have been feeling since their last-minute defeat to Uruguay on Friday. And each player got his own cheer from the crowds as they stepped aboard their coach to leave the airport.

Ghana were drawing 1-1 with Uruguay when in the final moments of extra time striker Asamoah Gyan missed a penalty kick awarded after Uruguay's Luis Suarez blocked a goal-bound shot with his hand.

The Black Stars then lost to the South Americans in a penalty shoot-out.

There were spontaneous shouts of joy at Accra's airport as the plane with the Black Stars landed late on Monday evening.

Football fans, many of whom had started arriving hours before the team's expected arrival, waved Ghana's national flags and blasted vuvuzelas to greet their heroes in a carnival atmosphere.

"The Stars fought gallantly, not only making Ghana proud, but the entire African continent," teacher Felicia Acheampong was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Ghana's captain Stephen Appiah said: "We did our best but luck was not on our side but we'll go to Brazil in 2014 to be major contenders."

The BBC's David Amanor in Accra said the Black Stars' street procession will end at the president's office, known as The Castle, where John Atta Mills is due to receive the players.

Earlier President Atta Mills urged Ghanaians not to "nail" the players despite their disappointment at the controversial loss.

"We should rather continue to support them and show appreciation for what they have achieved," he said.

"In Friday's match, there was going to be only one winner and unfortunately, it was not the Black Stars."

'Dream come true'

On Sunday, crowds gathered to cheer the team as they toured Johannesburg.

Ghanaian striker Asamoah Gyan (L) meets former South African President Nelson Mandela at his Johannesburg home - 3 July 2010 The Black Stars met former South African President Nelson Mandela

On Saturday, the team met Nelson Mandela's ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in Soweto, before visiting Mr Mandela at his home in Johannesburg.

"They represented the continent well and although they did not qualify for the semi-finals they can return home with their heads held high," said Mr Mandela's office after the meeting.

Leaving his house, the players described meeting the Nobel laureate.

"I am very happy to meet a great man like President Mandela. I was there with him, shaking his hand. I'm so happy to meet him face to face," said goalkeeper Richard Kingson.

Kevin-Prince Boateng said: "It's a dream come true, you know. It is very, very good for us. We feel more happy and feel good that we have met this man. He is a legend."

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