By ZACHERY PER
THE Digicel Cup champions Bintangor Goroka Lahanis franchise owner Simon Sia and his team received a heroes welcome at the Goroka Airport yesterday.
Supporters, relatives and family members of players, coaching staff and officials gathered at in truck loads as early as 8am.
The crowd swelled to more than 5000 with police and security guards providing crowd control.
However, the quiet and peaceful nature of Eastern Highlanders took centre stage as Sia was carried out of the terminal on the shoulders of fans.
Sia, along with Lahanis captain Gonzella Urakusie and coach Glen Nami and players were taken to Peace Park where they addressed the fans.
Eastern Highlands administrator Samson Akunai welcomed Sia and the team and spoke.
Akunai praised the Lahanis for bringing the coveted cup back to the province.
He called Eastern Highlanders savour the win and added the achievement had promoted unit and pride among the people.
Akunai challenged province’s the nine MPs to join to support cup defence next year.
Sia dedicated the Digicel Cup to the people of Eastern Highlands.
“We fought hard for this trophy, we fought for the pride of our province,” Sia said.
“The hardwork of the coaching staff, players has beared fruit. As sponsor, as long as I’m in Goroka, there will be no other sponsor of the Lahanis, it is our team,” Sia proclaimed.
“We finished in the fifth place when season ended, but we beat the best and went on to beat the top team.
“I thank players and coaching staff, without your commitment we would not be the champions we are now,” he said.
Sia said there would be a formal celebration next week and plans for a street parade and gathering at National Park.
Sia commened the home fans for being great hosts over the season and challenged to maintain the standard in the new season.
“We have to work in partnership to make this a success, look after your heros, coaching staff and even me as your sponsor too,” he said.
Coach Nami said their motivation was the supporters and thanked them for their undivided support.
“Because of your support we tried hard for you. We want to unite the province as the Goroka Lahanis has the potential to unite enemies to support one team,” Nami said.
“I thank sponsor Simon Sia for sponsoring the Lahanis over the past 11 years.” Lahanis won the last bemobile Cup in 2010 and won the Digicel Cup in the first year in 2011.
“The 17 players who played and won did it for the 700,000 people of Eastern Highlands,” Nami, a former Lahani, said.
The Lahanis went on an 11-game winning streak thatstarted in round 12 and ended on Sunday with skipper Urakusie lifting the Digicel Cup trophy up at the National Football Stadium in Port Moresby.
By ZACHERY PER