Bafana meet Mandela for inspiration ahead of Brazil clash

June 24th, 2009 - 10:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, June 24 (DPA) South Africa’s national football team sought inspiration from former president Nelson Mandela at a meeting with the anti-apartheid icon on the eve of a daunting Confederations Cup semi-final against Brazil.
Mandela, who turns 91 on July 18, received the team and their support staff, at his office in Johannesburg’s Houghton district Wednesday afternoon.

South African coach Joel Santana said it had been a historic moment for him and the team. “To be before a worldwide symbol was a very proud moment for our team.

“We got goose pimples. Mandela is a supremely charismatic person, a person who is calm by his presence. Simply through his presence there is a great deal of tranquility and peace in his surroundings.

“I never thought in my life I would have the opportunity I had today. I thought I had seen it all but I had not. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity.”

Captain Aaron Mokoena, who affectionately calls Mandela the Old Man, said that it was one of those special moments.

“Meeting the Old Man was incredible and one thing about the Old Man, he always has

belief in us, not only in current squad, but in all squads. He gave us a message of good luck and told us that he believes in us. His presence is unbelievable and the calmness that he shows when he approaches people - that is something that we should take into the game tomorrow.

“Taking from the Old Man himself and being calm helps a lot. It was certainly one of the biggest moments. He wished each and every one of us good luck and told us that he has belief in us.”

Mandela, who was the country’s first democratically-elected president and spent 27 years in prison for resisting white minority rule, is revered globally as an icon of reconciliation.

He had asked to see Bafana Bafana and wish them well, his foundation said in a statement.

Both he and the squad all wore “Mandela Day” T-shirts, named after a day that will be launched in his honour on his birthday.

Mokoena presented Mandela with a team shirt with his name and the number 91 on it.

On meeting the team’s Brazilian coach, Santana, Mandela remarked to laughter: “Your face is familiar.”

Speaking on behalf of the family, Ndaba Mandela, his grandson, said: “We wish you all the best in the upcoming game. We know you are going to be victorious.”

As he left the room, the team sang: “Nelson Mandela, there is no one like you.”

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