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madiba_13/07

Cape Times

Having a laugh: 2010 CEO Danny Jordaan and Premier Ebrahim Rasool share a moment at a press conference about the "90 Minutes for Madiba" game. Photo: Sophia Stander, Cape Times

Former president Nelson Mandela will not attend next week's star-studded soccer match in his honour between a World XI and African XI, but Capetonians have been urged to turn out in their thousands to prove to the world that they are soccer mad.

The match will see former Brazilian football star Pele and former European player of the year Ruud Gullit battle it out against South Africa's own Doctor Khumalo and Mark Fish.

Three-time African player of the year Samuel Eto'o of Cameroon and George Weah of Liberia, will also be there.

The teams will contest the "90 Minutes for Mandela" match at the Newlands Stadium on Wednesday.

The clash would serve as a tribute to the legendary South African statesman and coincided with his 89th birthday, South African 2010 Fifa Local Organising Committee spokesperson Jermaine Craig said.

This is the second time Fifa has seen fit to honour Mandela, the first being on August 17, 1999 to commemorate the end of his term as president.

Craig said Madiba would be sending a pre-recorded message to be played at the game.

"It has become a tradition for him to spend his birthdays with his family in Johannesburg," he said.

On Thurdsday, Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool and 2010 Chief Executive Officer Danny Jordaan urged Cape Town to prove to the world that the Mother City was indeed soccer mad.

"Unless people of this city embrace this event we aren't going to have the World Cup we are looking for," Jordaan warned.

Rasool and Cape Town councillor Grant Haskins, meanwhile, dismissed suggestions that next week's game was also designed to show the world that the province and city could play on the same team when it came to 2010 preparations.

The two have often been at loggerheads over the building of the controversial Green Point stadium.

But Haskins argued that the hatchet had been buried and construction was five weeks ahead of schedule.

"When it comes to the stadium, the city and province are completely on the same page with regards to how we want to progress towards readiness ahead of 2010."

Rasool confirmed that they were in agreement about the World Cup.

"I think this is going to be one of the most important unifying points in an ordinarily fractured city," he said.

Next week's game would not just honour Mandela but also the unity and non-racialism he strove for.

"I think that is what the world is saying and what we want Cape Town to say on Wednesday night, is a big thank you to Nelson Mandela," he said.

That was also what the 2010 World Cup was about.

"Soccer came here to rediscover its soul, to reconnect with badges of non-racialism, of human rights and of everything that Nelson Mandela and South Africa stand for".

Jordaan also said that next week's game, the proceeds of which would go to charities supported by the Mandela Foundation, was about more that just 90 minutes of soccer.

Racism did not belong in football, he said, arguing that the only thing that mattered was the colour of your shirt.




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