JOHANNESBURG - Nelson Mandela attended
the opening of Sunday's World Cup final between Spain and
Netherlands, thrilling fans and capping South Africa's pride in
staging a successful tournament.
Mandela, 91, who is in frail health, waved as he briefly
toured the pitch in a golf cart surrounded by bodyguards. He was
given an ecstatic welcome by the crowd chanting his clan name
Madiba and blowing vuvuzela trumpets.
FIFA had said it hoped Mandela would attend but the former
South Africa president, who celebrates his birthday on July 18,
rarely appears in public and his grandson Mandla Mandela hinted
the Nobel peace price winner would not attend the entire match.
"He's going to rest and try and get some energy for
tonight," Mandla Mandela told Reuters ahead of the match at Soccer City on the edge of the sprawling
black township of Soweto.
"He has expressed that he is coming to the stadium to come
and greet the fans and go back home."
Mandela missed the opening match of the tournament a month
ago after his great-granddaughter died in a car accident.
The presence of Mandela, revered globally for his role in
fighting apartheid and leading his country to democracy, adds to
South African joy at successfully hosting the first World Cup on
National team Bafana Bafana bowed out of the tournament at
the first round stage but President Jacob Zuma said on Saturday
the relatively smooth hosting of the finals made its people the
Sceptics had doubted Africa's economic powerhouse could
organise the World Cup, including completing construction of
stadiums on time.
While some tourists have been robbed, the world's biggest
sporting event has taken place largely peacefully, confounding
fears of attacks on foreigners in a country with one of the
world's highest rates of violent crime outside a war zone.
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