Mandela 'forced' to attend the final

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 12.07.10
A man, wearing ananti-racism T-shirt, ran on to the pitch minutes before the start of the World Cup final, on Sunday, and came very close to grabbing the trophy being exhibited there. Securitymen, however, managed to wrestle him to the ground and take him away

London: Nelson Mandela 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 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.

The crowd at the Soccer City stadium in Soweto welcomed 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 requiring and wishing that my grandfather be at the final. The family has really taken a step back from a lot of activities and we’ve been mourning the loss of Zenani (great granddaughter who passed away in a tragic accident).”

On Thursday, Sepp Blatter expressed hope that 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.”

“I think people ought to just understand the family’s traditions and customs and understand we’ve had a loss in the family and we are in mourning and that for me would be enough reason to leave the family to be for now.”

South Africa’s military health service said Mandela’s visit was made possible after it had close consultations with his family and Fifa.

“At no stage was the health of Mandela compromised and members of the SA Military Health Service (were) on hand to ensure the wellbeing of Dr Mandela,” it said in a statement. (Agencies)