Mandela attends World Cup closing ceremony

By BBC
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By BBC

7/12/2010 10:10:28 AM -


Nelson Mandela has enjoyed a thunderous greeting from thousands of fans at the World Cup closing ceremony.

The former South African president flashed his famous smile as he was driven across the pitch in a golf cart with his wife, Grace Machel.

Earlier, his grandson said Fifa had put Mr Mandela under "extreme pressure" to attend the game in Johannesburg.

Mandla Mandela said the engagement would be "strenuous" for the 91-year-old, who is increasingly frail.

Shaking hands
The crowd at the Soccer City stadium in Soweto welcomed Nelson Mandela with a mixture of cheers and vuvuzela blasts.

There were chants of "Madiba", the clan name by which he is affectionately known.

Warmly wrapped against the winter chill, the anti-apartheid icon shook hands with officials before leaving the field a few minutes later.

He was expected to watch the actual game at home on television.

The Nobel laureate cancelled plans to attend the opening ceremony after his great-granddaughter died in a car crash the night before the tournament.

Speaking to the BBC earlier, Mandla Mandela said: "We've come under extreme pressure from Fifa [the governing body of world football] requiring and wishing that my grandfather be at the final.

Heads of state and leading figures from business and entertainment jetted in to see European champions Spain take on the Netherlands.

The BBC's Jonah Fisher, in Johannesburg, says the tournament is judged to have been a success for South Africa.

More than three million people have attended the games, while the widely predicted security and transport problems have failed to materialise.

Nelson Mandela's attendance will be seen as the perfect end to a competition that has boosted not only his country but all of Africa.

However, he remains in fragile health and is still in mourning for great-granddaughter Zenani Mandela, 13, who was killed in a car crash after leaving a World Cup concert in Soweto on the eve of the tournament.

On Thursday, Mr Blatter expressed hope that Mr Mandela would attend the final, saying: "He has had this trophy in his hand when he was in Zurich in 2004, and it will be a wonderful moment for him, for football, for Africa - if this can be a possibility."

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, before becoming South Africa's first black president after the fall of apartheid in 1994.




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