Former South African president Nelson Mandela met the national team on Wednesday to wish them luck on the eve of their FIFA Confederations Cup semi-final against Brazil.

The 90-year-old Nobel Peace Prize Laureate greeted the players, who presented him with a green Bafana Bafana jersey that had his name stitched on the back. South Africa coach Joel Santana later spoke eloquently about what the meeting with Mandela had meant to him and his team.

"It was a historic moment, Nelson Mandela is a worldwide symbol. We all got goose bumps when we met him," the Brazilian said.

Santana added: "Nelson Mandela is a supremely charismatic person. His presence and the way he spoke to us conveyed a great deal of tranquility to us.  I thought I'd seen it all in my life, but I hadn't. I feel extremely proud to have had this opportunity and the players feel the same."

I thought I'd seen it all in my life, but I hadn't. I feel extremely proud to have had this opportunity and the players feel the same.
South Africa coach Joel Santana

South Africa captain Aaron Mokoena echoed Santana's sentiments, saying: "It was a special moment meeting the old man.

"He wished us all in turn 'good luck'. His presence and calmness is unbelievable. That's something we have to take to the game tomorrow. As a player you can get nervous when you're playing a game like this, but his calmness will help a lot," said Mokoena.  

After taking office following the fall of apartheid, Mandela harnessed the popularity of sport in South Africa to press his message of racial reconciliation.

He famously donned the jersey of the Springbok rugby team to hand the 1995 FIFA World Cup trophy to the captain, an image that became a symbol of the new South Africa.