FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter today (Tuesday, 16 September) paid tribute to" his friend Madiba" at a private audience at the Nelson Mandela Foundation with a very special gift.
To commemorate the historic moment on 15 May 2004 when the former President of South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Nelson Mandela, emotionally raised the iconic Trophy right after the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ was awarded to South Africa, Blatter handed over a specifically manufactured replica of the FIFA World Cup.
"You are the true architect of this FIFA World Cup; your presence and commitment made it happen. Now the first African FIFA World Cup is a reality and the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009 - the dress rehearsal - will already take place in less than ten months' time," explained Blatter on handing over the trophy to Mandela. "I remember that moment back in Zurich. It's an honour to welcome you here today. It was my desire to meet you and I am happy that we managed it. Thank you for this very special gift," said Mr. Mandela, who assigned the Trophy a special place in his office. The FIFA President was accompanied by FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke and FIFA Ambassador Tokyo Sexwale.
The FIFA President spoke with Mr. Mandela on his itinerary since arriving South Africa on Sunday and told him how confident he was that the 2010 FIFA World Cup would be a magnificent event. In particular, the FIFA President talked about his visit that same morning to the iconic Soccer City stadium when he was welcomed by enthusiastic construction workers regaling him with a stirring rendition of Shosholoza - a popular local tune which has become South African workers' theme song whenever the FIFA President visits FIFA World Cup stadium sites in the country. "This is the centre of all the activities of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and I am so impressed by the magnitude of the construction of this stadium which already more than 20,000 seats in place. It's great, it's big, it's huge. It is like a temple where people will assemble in 2010," said Blatter.
Mr. Mandela was keen also on President Blatter's assessment of the current performance of the South African football team Bafana Bafana, while the pair also fondly reminisced about the glorious South African team that won the 1996 CAF Africa Cup of Nations on home soil. Now the team must start concentrating on preparations for next year's FIFA Confederations Cup, when they have to compete against top teams such as reigning world champions Italy, Brazil, USA and European champions Spain. "South Africa has the talent but it is time now to show it," explained Blatter.
Mr. Mandela then told the guests about his football experiences back as a schoolboy and stressed that football is a people's sport. To conclude the short visit the FIFA President added: "This is the highlight of my stay here in South Africa to meet my dear friend Madiba. I feel at home in this beautiful and proud country. God bless you and I hope to see you at the opening match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup on 11 June 2010 at Soccer City stadium."