Mandela gets an emotional welcome at Soccer City stadiumJuly 12th, 2010 - 2:29 am ICT by IANS
By Abhishek Roy
Johannesburg, July 12 (IANS) It was an emotional farewell to the World Cup at the vuvuzuela-buzzing Soccer City stadium here Sunday as the iconic Nelson Mandela expressed his gratitude to football fans from across the world in a colourful closing ceremony, bringing down curtains to the historic occasion.
Mandela missed the opening ceremony June 11 following the tragic death of his great grand-daughter in a car crash, and there were doubts over his appearance at the closing ceremony Sunday since he was not keeping well.
But Mandela, who turns 92 next week, came out on the turf in a specially designed buggy along with his wife Graca Machel as the 89,000-capacity stadium rose to salute the great leader.
It was a sight to behold for the Dutch and Spanish fans, who travelled long distance and shelled out thousands of dollars to support their sides in the final.
Thousands of fans, who have been waiting eagerly to have a glimpse of this anti-apartheid hero, called out in chorus –”Madiba, Madiba (Mandela’s clan name)”.
Mandela, who played a crucial role in bringing the tournament to South Africa, smiled and waved at the spectators as his cart did a lap of honour.
“Thank you Madiba,” read a placard held by a Dutch fan.
Mandela’s presence briefly overshadowed the colourful show in which Shakira and three-time Grammy winning South African cappella vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo performed.
Fans had queued outside the stadium right from early afternoon. It was the orange wave of the Dutch that had covered the whole Soccer City, though the Spanish fans were also present in equal numbers.
Watching the soccer’s biggest party was a dream come true for them.
“After we won the semi-final, I was determined to watch the final with my wife, come what may. I immediately told my wife and two kids to pack their bags and get ready for final match,” Norman De Villiers, who has come all the way from Amsterdam, told IANS.
Norman and his family are a part of the famous Oranje camping fan brigade, who have set up their base in Pretoria.
“I had to spent $15,000 for this trip with my family, but it is worth it. I cannot describe the fun that we had. We have been singing all day long and partying for the sake of our national team,” Norman added.
Like Norman, his fellow compatriot David De Boer was emotional after seeing the great leader coming out himself to thank the fans.
“It has been tough for us to come this far, but after seeing Mandela, it was worth taking all the trouble,” David told IANS
Spanish fan Pablo Gomes was sceptical before flying out for the final, but was equally ecstatic after the closing ceremony.
“I strongly believed that the man would surely come out to greet the soccer fans. After all, the country got the World cup because of him. We can always see a Shakira show but getting a glimpse of Madiba is a rare chance,” he said.
(Abhishek Roy can be contacted at email@example.com)
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Tags: abhishek, biggest party, black mambazo, car crash, clan name, closing ceremony, dutch fan, early afternoon, emotional farewell, emotional welcome, final match, football fans, grand daughter, nelson mandela, soccer city, spanish fans, time grammy, tragic death, vocal group, wife graca machel