This comes after the squad defeated Senegal 3-1 on penalties in the third place play off of the CAF u23 Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
The clash took place on Saturday, 12 December at Stade Leopold Sedar Senghor.
South Africa took third place in the tournament and also booked a place in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil.
They also won the Fair Play Award.
“Thank for your discipline on and off the field. For me it was very important because not so long ago we come from xenophobic attacks in South Africa and there were a few Senegalese nationals who were affected. Your conduct during your time here showed what South Africans are really like,” said Shilubane.
“When we talk about matters on the field though, in the first match I was sitting behind the Head of Delegation and I didn’t know what to say after losing 3-1 to Senegal and I quickly left after the match. If the pain I was feeling was that great, I can only imagine what pain the coach was going through. For you to come back and beat Senegal in Senegal is quite an achievement. Yesterday I had a function in the evening and I could proudly walk around other ambassadors thanks to what you did. Everybody was congratulating me and it was a good feeling.”
His Excellency added that the victory in the tournament meant a lot.
“We are very proud of you because your win was not only for the people of South Africa. It means a lot more than you can imagine – you are also representing SADC (Southern African Development Communities which has 15 member countries) – and that is one of the reasons today at this lunch we have our colleagues from Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia,” said Shilubane.
“When we are here we do things together, we move as SADC. So you represented us well. Zambia was here in the tournament and did not make it but I am almost certain they are happy for us because we also represent them. And that is very important to us.”
There was also a word of advice to the players from SAFA NEC member Ms. Nomsa Mahlangu, who is Head of the South African Delegation in Senegal.
“Now that we have qualified for the Olympics, it does not mean automatic inclusion into the team going to the Games, if you don’t pull your weight the technical team can still change and find other players. So when you go back to your clubs you need to work harder to maintain your spot in the team. Unfortunately in football there is no birthright, you need to earn your place. Congratulations that you have made it this far. And I would like to see all of you in Rio, but it will all be dependent on the work that you put in and your discipline,” said Mahlangu.