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(Pictures) A Majestic Home Welcome For Daniel Teklehaimanot & Merhawi Kudus

H.E. President Isaias Afwerki raising the arms of African heroes Daniel Teklehaimanot & Merhawi Kudus 

A Majestic Welcome Befitting Eritrean TDF 2015 Cyclists & Africa’s Heroes

By Billion Temesghen

The morning of Saturday 1st August 2015, was exceptionally glittery. Although the week has seen a festive atmosphere because of the Eritrean festival season, on that exceptional day things were heated up a notch more.

The first African rider to wear the coveted King of the Mountains jersey Daniel Teklehaimanot, alongside the youngest yet really talented rider of the Tour de France Merhawi Kudus, returned home on August 1st after making history for their Africa-based team, their country and Africa at large.

“Their victory is our victory. It brings me back to the days in which we ardently desired to make a name for ourselves. Cycling has a long history in Eritrea, a history of decades. We couldn’t promote our enthusiastic passion on international stages because we were nothing but subordinates. But now our young ones are making that long-standing dream of ours a reality.” said Mr. Yemane Negasi, president of the Central Region Cycling Federation.

Eritrean indigenous racing dates its origins back to 1936, after the Italians introduced the sport in 1910 and was very much established. Cyclists like Weldemichael Asghedom, also known by his nickname Berbere (piquant traditional spice), are definitely worth mentioning. They say the Italians gave him that nickname in the late 1930s because he was someone they could not get hold A Majestic Welcome Befitting Eritrean TDF 2015 Cyclists & Africa’s Heroes of. Moreover, many more passionate cyclists literally bet their lives on the racing route, such as the late Yemane Tekeste who died during a race in Sudan.

However during competitions, senior cyclists had to wave flags that certainly were not theirs. That is why when finally Daniel and Merhawi made that feat possible, the Eritrean people and veteran cyclists showed great emotional attachment to our champions’ victories.

Starting from the International Airport of Asmara all the way to Bahti Meskerem square, people from all walks of life and cycling fans in particular went out to the streets and accorded their champions an enthusiastic and trulyearned “hero’s welcome”.

Early in that morning Minster Abraha Asfaha, Minister Askalu Menkorios, Administrator of the Central region Maj. Gen. Romodan Osman Awliyay, and Ambassador Zemede Tekle accorded our champions an official welcome at the Asmara international Airport.

Afterwards Daniel Teklehaimanot and Merhawi Kudus started their drive towards the city, waving from the rooftops of their respective cars to the people and fans who have been passionately cheering for them during the whole course of TDF 2015.

Upon arrival at the Expo area, participants of the Festival Eritrea 2015 came out running shouting cheers of joy. Eritreans from the different regions and ethnic groups flooded the entire area, singing and dancing in their varied yet beautiful traditional styles.

At the roundabout near Nakfa House the long procession was met with more cheering crowds and Marching Band, which led all the way down the Semaetat Boulevard.

When our champions reached the City Park area, they briefly made a detour to the Presidential Palace where they were received by President Isaias Afwerki, who applauded them for their epic performance.

The people that stood by both sides of Semaatat and Harnet avenues were all cheering ecstatically.
Large posters and banners had been affixed to walls; balloons and decorations highlighting the occasion were everywhere, as was the Eritrean flag. Individuals and especially women added further glory to the event by wearing traditional clothing with polkadot patterns, typical of the jersey Daniel wore for four consecutive stages. Age, gender or profession was not of importance: men, women, young and old, children, big and small, all were cheering, shouting and rejoicing in the success of our champions.

It was a breathtaking sight, a spectacle not to forget… It was definitely a moment in which once more again, the harmony of Eritreans as a value was witnessed.

At around 11:00 am when Daniel and Merhawi reached the Bahti Meskerem Sqaure, and everybody had gathered, the official celebration of the heroes’ return kicked off in the presence of government ministers, diplomats, invited guests, and thousands of citizens from all over the country and abroad, including foreigners who remained mesmerized by the whole fanfare and its significance.

Following statements by Mr. Asmerom Habtemariam, the President of the National Cycling Federation, and Ambassador Zemede Tekle, the Commissioner of Culture and Sport, Daniel and Merhawi got upon the stage and genuinely thanked their people for their support and warm reception, which were, in the words of
the young Merhawi Kudus, “beyond their expectation”.

Though at a short time notice, various artists of different generations delivered performances that brightened up the day and further stirred up the audience to dance.

“I am spending an amazing time, I feel love and pride. Seeing how everyone is partying and celebrating … I don’t even know how to explain how I feel. I just know that I have to go back to celebrate,” said Mosana Debessai, the 2015 Cycling Champion in the women’s category. She said was then even more motivated than ever.

“Although I am only 20 years old, I now feel like I can do anything. Merhawi and Daniel were fellow teammates at first, now they are definitely my mentors, idols, and I look up to them. ”

Media outlets, particularly Eritrean Television and radio services gave the event full coverage. A
live transmission that lasted for more than four hours was broadcast from the streets of Asmara to audiences all over the world via satellite.

“Since cycling is one of the most followed sports in Eritrea, today is definitely a time of delight for a society that has adapted cycling as part of customs. This is just the beginning for Eritrean cyclists, and a promising future for today’s champions is inevitable,” explains journalist Amanuel Alaazar, after mentioning that
Eritreans overseas were broadly following the celebrations.

“Western media is not aware of this side of Eritreans. Eritrea nourishes young people that make history not only for us but for Africa as well. We take pride in what we do and we work hard. It’s always nice to be back home,” says Mehari, who came from London.

Misgana Gebrezgabiher says that to compensate in what Merhawi Kudus, Daniel Teklehaimanot and Natnael Birhane have done for us the only thing she could have done is wake up early at 4:00, run to the airport and welcome the boys shout out their name as many times as possible.

Just like Misgana, many more Eritreans all over the world had an emotional morning last Saturday. Our boys sure did make us proud. If anything else, now the world gets to know once again that Eritrea is made of “can do” youth... Always!

The following images are courtesy of Eritrea Profile (Shabait)

The following images are courtesy of East Star

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(Pictures) A Majestic Home Welcome For Daniel Teklehaimanot & Merhawi Kudus Reviewed by Admin on 7:45 AM Rating: 5

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