By Joyce Tse

Football idols Ronaldo and Luis Figo of Real Madrid met Nelson Mandela at his home in Cape Town on Thursday and promised to tell the world about South Africa.

Brazilian international Ronaldo and Portugal's Figo are in the city as guests of businessman Tokyo Sexwale to promote the new A1 Grand Prix, "the world cup of motor sports", according to Tony Texeira, chief executive of the A1 Grand Prix.

Mandela welcomed the football players, along with Texeira and A1 Grand Prix executive director Brian Menell, to his home.

He told Ronaldo and Figo how happy he was they were visiting South Africa and said: "One of the most important things is that every country should be known in the world as much as possible.

"And now, with you here, I want to make sure a little more about South Africa is known to the world. We're very grateful. We appreciate the friendship because, without friendship, we cannot perform."

Mandela told the pair how proud he was about how far the country had come since the apartheid years.

"We are very happy with what's going on in South Africa now," he said. As they spoke, Ronaldo and Figo stood on either side of Mandela in black shirts emblazoned with 46664 - Give one minute of your life to Aids.

The shirts were given to them by Mandela and promote his worldwide music-led campaign to raise global awareness about HIV and Aids and funds to fight the pandemic in South Africa.

Mandela named the football stars ambassadors for the campaign.

Ronaldo and Figo gave Mandela signed jerseys, saying it was a football tradition to exchange kit.

The pair expressed their delight at having met Mandela.

"It's a great honour to be here next to Mr Mandela. I'm going to tell the world that I have been here. I am very, very proud," said Ronaldo.

Figo echoed his sentiments and said: "South Africa is a great country."

Although their time here is limited, the pair have much to do, with Ronaldo representing the Brazilian franchise for the A1 Grand Prix and Figo the Portuguese franchise.

The two later flew to Johannesburg and are expected to attend Bafana's World Cup qualifier against Ghana at the FNB Stadium on Saturday.

Figo, Fifa's 2001 Player of the Year, is to return to Madrid after the match, while Ronaldo, who was Fifa's Player of the Year in 1996 and 1997, stays on for a few days.