Boxer Anisha Bashir arrived home yesterday through Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) in Lilongwe from her Commonwealth (British Empire) lightweight title triumph in the United Kingdom to a hero’s welcome.
Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Francis Kasaila was among scores of people who welcomed the boxing icon.
A Kenyan Airways plane which had Bashir on board touched down at the airport at about 1.22pm—over 30 minutes behind schedule—but that did not dwarf the sense of excitement in the VIP section where she was driven to after alighting from the plane.
Bashir, 20, who defeated English opponent Samantha Smith to win the title on Friday, was seemingly overwhelmed by the atmosphere. She flashed a smile as a boy gave her a bouquet of flowers, probably the first of the many gifts she will receive for her heroics.
“I am so happy to have achieved this feat. I trained really hard for this to happen.
“I am also humbled by the goodwill messages and the reception,” she said in an interview while visibly fighting to hold back tears of joy.
The boxer said with the support of Malawians, she hopes to achieve more.
“This is not the end of the journey, it is rather the beginning,” she said. “I will sit down with my managing team and see how to move forward.”
This is the second belt Bashir has won in under a year having clinched the Africa Boxing Union (ABU) belt last December.
Meanwhile, Kasaila said he was pleased with Bashir’s exploits and promised to fulfil her request to meet First Lady Gertrude Mutharika.
“When you won the ABU title you asked to meet the First Lady. I can assure you that your dream will come true,” he said.
Bashir’s manager Craig Rousseau said their target is to defend the belt and also vie for the World Boxing Council (WBC) silver belt.
“We will not defend the ABU title, however, we will defend the Commonwealth belt later this year and also challenge for the WBC world title,” he said.
Justifying the move not to defend the ABU title, Rousseau said: “It is of lower rank since Anisha has now won the Commonwealth belt.”
Meanwhile, President Peter Mutharika and Vice-President Saulos Chilima have congratulated Bashir for her feat.
Part of Mutharika’s statement reads: “It is my wish that all sporting disciplines will emulate the boxing fraternity which is producing good results both at regional and global contests. Once again, well done Anisha, we are all proud of you!”
While part of Chilima’s statement reads: “It’s wonderful to see the daughter of Malawi flying the national flag higher. Malawi is proud of you. You are an inspiration to the people of Malawi.”