As Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman returned to India on Friday evening, the country’s athletes took to Twitter to welcome the Indian Air Force pilot back and laud his courage in the face of fire.
Abhinandan's MiG-21 Bison was shot down on Wednesday, and he was consequently captured by Pakistani troops. He had engaged with a Pakistan Air Force F-16 aircraft after it had violated Indian airspace over Jammu and Kashmir's Rajouri district.
Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan had announced on Thursday that Varthaman would be released as a “peace offering”.
Current and former India cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Anil Kumble, VVS Laxman, Irfan Pathan were among the first to take to the social networking site to applaud his courage, while India hockey captain Rani Rampal also tweeted to welcome the IAF pilot back. Varthaman's return caused widespread celebrations among Indians on Twitter.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India, which launched a new jersey for the 2019 ICC World Cup on Friday, also posted a heartwarming image of a jersey with Varthaman’s name at the back.
— BCCI (@BCCI) March 1, 2019
Even the All India Football Federation heaped praise on Varthaman for being a source of inspiration.
— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) March 1, 2019
Here are a few selected tweets from India’s sporting fraternity:
A hero is more than just four letters. Through his courage, selflessness and perseverance, OUR HERO teaches us to have faith in ourselves.#WelcomeHomeAbhinandan
Jai Hind 🇮🇳
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) March 1, 2019
Real Hero. I bow down to you. Jai Hind 🙏🙏🇮🇳🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/kDgocwpclA
— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) March 1, 2019
We all are proud of your courage Wing Commander Abhinandan!
Welcome back home. #WelcomeHomeAbinandan
— Rani Rampal (@imranirampal) March 1, 2019
— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) March 1, 2019
Former India cricketer Irfan Pathan also tweeted "recognising the humanitarian gesture".
Our brave pilot #Abhinanadan after having ejected on d other side of d boarder n being in thr captivity is back home.We r proud of u n all our armed https://t.co/Ify1t0VAmt dis escalated situation between d2 countries,also would like 2 recognize d humanitarian gesture #JaiHind
— Irfan Pathan (@IrfanPathan) March 1, 2019
A big salute to wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman #Abhinandan. He is the real hero #Hero. A very big salute to the defence team & IAF on the successful surgical strike. Great respect #respect to our PM Narendramodi ji @narendramodi.#JaiHind #Peace #Salute #IAF #Bravery. pic.twitter.com/RUvCZsha7w
— Amit Mishra (@MishiAmit) March 1, 2019
Updated Date: Mar 01, 2019 23:34:28 IST