A batch of vanquished members of Chipolopolo have returned to Zambia 48 hours after being eliminated from the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa to a low key welcome contrasting the euphoria that characterised their presence last year.
Some members of the team have connected directly to the base in Europe and South Africa while another four players landed in the country quietly on Wednesday night.
Zambia were winless at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations drawing all three matches in Group C against Ethiopia, Nigeria (1-all apiece) and Burkina Faso (0-0).
The 2012 champions were darlings of Zambia but their return from the South Africa tournament must have sent reality shivers in how fortunes turn just within months of stardom.
Not even a FAZ bus was at hand to welcome the team as each player, official had to fend for their own lift out of the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport. There were a handful of fans, or is it airport staff, that waved at the players as they wade through their arrival formalities.
Sports minister Chishimba Kambwili was nowhere in the vicinity, not even his officials, to offer solidarity for the same players they showered with praise and treated lavishly last year.
It was a painful and sombre mood to see the boys literally walk alone without the aid that charactrised their stay at the continental throne in the last 11 months.
For sure, if you want to confirm that "failure is an orphan while success is the son of many parents" ask any member of the crestfallen Chipolopolo who returned to the grim reality they were only other ordinary passengers.
The last batch of the team is expected this evening. Striker Emmanuel Mayuka has flown directly to England while Rainford Kalaba and Stophilla Sunzu arrived in the country yesterday. Most of those based in South Africa are remaining behind to resume club duty.