Cape Town unites at Newlands for Madiba bash

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By MATT MEDVED and ELLA SMOOKpage_7307933

The “90 Minutes for Mandela” game at Newlands last night has shown that Capetonians can unite, says Cape Town mayor Helen Zille.

Describing last night’s World XI vs Africa XI match as “enjoyable, safe and a milestone in preparation for the 2010 World Cup”, Zille said today that it proved that Capetonians could fill a football stadium in spite of “little advertising and a short lead time”.

Last night’s match featured a boisterous and a near-capacity crowd, but was marred by a pitch invasion at the final whistle.

Security personnel had to scramble to protect the players and dignitaries.

Brazilian football legend Pelé, 66, did not suit up to play, but he did kick off the match and ran a lap around the field, hand-in-hand with Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o. He also led the crowd in a chant of “Say no to racism”.

The nail-biting match, which ended in a 3-3 draw between the Africa XI and World XI teams, was in honour of Nelson Mandela’s 89th birthday yesterday.

A message from Mandela was broadcast on video screens around the stadium before the kick-off.

“Part of the true beauty of the game of soccer is its power to unite people,” said Mandela.

“I remember how we used to play soccer as prisoners on Robben Island. It helped us keep hope during those dark days.”

Eto’o said the match was one of the best he had ever been selected to take part in.

“This is not the World Cup final or the Champion’s League final; it’s a match to celebrate the life of a great person,” he said.

“And I hope we can celebrate again with Mandela at the World Cup in three years.”

Fans blasted their vuvuzelas and waved signs saying, “Veels geluk liewe Madiba (Congratu-lations, dear Madiba)”.

Announcers described the crowd as “a full house” and fans wanting to buy last-minute tickets were turned away outside the stadium.

“The guys have been playing very well and it’s good to see more of the African guys being featured out there,” said fan Xolani Mfazo of Khayelitsha. “I do wish I could have seen Pelé play, though.”

Jimmy Mosamo, 27, of Fish Hoek, said he had come out to see favourites like Doctor Khumalo and Lucas Radebe play.

“The game has been great, it’s like a Champion’s League atmosphere,” said Mosamo.

“And there is a great mixture of white, coloured and black people here,” he said.

“Soccer truly can bring people together, just like Madiba says. It’s what South Africa has been missing.”

Zille thanked Fifa, the 2010 Local Organising Committee and Safa “for bringing this event and international soccer stars to Cape Town”.

“This match has vindicated their trust in Cape Town and the allocation of nine World Cup matches to Cape Town’s new Green Point stadium. We will treat this as a test-run for 2010, hold an extensive debrief to build on success and to make improvements where needed.”

Meanwhile, Sapa reports that Mandela marked his birthday by launching fellow elder statesmen on a venture to re-duce conflict and despair.

He was the host at a ceremony in Johannesburg to an-nounce the formation of a brains trust of world leaders, bringing together such people as ex-US president Jimmy Carter and former UN chief Kofi Annan, on a mission to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems.

The Elders will be chaired by Richard Branson.

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~ by Matt Medved on July 19, 2007.

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