Mandela to attend opening WC match


JOHANNESBURG, June 3 – South Africa's first black president Nelson Mandela will attend the opening and closing ceremony of the FIFA World Cup, which kicks off next week, the sports minister said on Thursday."Mandela has demanded to attend the World Cup. He requested four tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies, and the organisers have granted his wish," sports minister Makhenkesi Stofile said in The Star newspaper.

The Mandela family previously said that the elderly statesman was too frail to go to stadiums during the World Cup and would not attend the games. Because of his advanced age, Mandela’s schedule is often not announced until the last minute.

Mandela, who turns 92 next month, campaigned for the World Cup to come to South Africa and was present in Zurich in 2004 when the country was named the event’s host.

"For us this was a natural thing to do. If there is one person you could point out (deserving of the World Cup) we must say it is Madiba, and it’s befitting that he be there," Stofile said, referring to Mandela by his clan name.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Thursday said he hoped Mandela would attend the opening of the tournament at Johannesburg’s new Soccer City stadium near Soweto, Mandela’s old neighbourhood.