Johannesburg - As flight GBB 710 took to the skies at 13:00 at OR Tambo International Airport on Thursday, it not only carried the Bafana Bafana team that will do battle against Congo-Brazzaville, but the hopes of a nation deprived of football glory for many years.
The South Africans face the Red Devils at the Stade Municipal de Pointe-Noire on Saturday in a group A AFCON2015 qualifier.
The players were held in awe by the airport staff as they lined up at the terminal check-in.
A group surrounded the players with cameras and cellphones, snapping away taking "selfies" with their idols.
SAFA president Danny Jordaan rallied his troops with words of encouragement before they boarded.
"You must go there and win. Forget about everything that is written by these people (media).
"Pointe-Noire is nothing. Qualification for Morocco is in your hands," he said.
"We are going there in 2014 to qualify for 2015 and that is our mission. And if we play well and if we commit, as you have done in the last two matches, it can be done.”
Jordaan would not be travelling to watch the match as SAFA had their Annual General Congress scheduled this weekend.
He downplayed reports about hostile conditions in the Republic of Congo, and not to let the hype go to their heads.
"I was there in 1997 and those conditions do not exist anymore.
"At that time there was a military presence and circumstances were different.
"I don’t think you must have anything else in your head.
"It’s a team we can play well against and we can beat. And don’t think about anything else. Don’t play with images that do not exist anymore."
Having beaten Sudan 3-0 and drawn 0-0 with Nigeria, Jordaan applauded the Bafana team for turning the nation into believers once again.
"You have restored the belief of the people. The country believes in you. We are almost there. These two matches will help us across the bridge."
Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa replied to the president, promising the team would do their best.
"We will go there to Congo to do our best and make sure the country is proud of us. We will fight, that’s all I can say."
The team return to the country on Sunday and play the return leg against Congo at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Wednesday.