About 1500 Soweto pupils gathered at their high school in Moletsane yesterday to catch a brief glimpse of former world boxing champion Mike Tyson.
The former heavyweight boxer arrived at the school at about 12.30pm and spent about 20 minutes walking through the throngs of students.
Tyson told the pupils, who let out screams of excitement, that he knew the conditions they were living in as he had grown up in similar surroundings in the United States. When asked by one of the girl pupils if he would come back to the school another time, he simply responded: "Yes".
"He used to be my role model, but not anymore," said one student, Thabo Ngomako, referring to Tyson's criminal record, which includes a jail sentence for rape.
The school headgirl, Charmaine Mahopo, said anyone with celebrity status would always draw criticism from other people. "There will always be talk from critics. I'll never lose my trust in him."
Earlier Tyson had held Mahopo's hand as he walked towards the large group of fans who had gathered in the school's assembly grounds. "He took my hand. It was so exciting. I won't forget this day.
"I'm never going to wash my hand."
After his address, Tyson, who appeared overwhelmed by the crowd, said he would have wanted to shake everyone's hands. Instead, the gathering parted and Tyson walked through the masses while children tried to reach out and touch him on the arm.
Tyson, flanked by three bodyguards, sped away in his black Jeep just before 1pm, arriving back at his hotel at Emperors Palace casino on the East Rand just after 2pm. At the hotel, his co-manager Harlan Werner, said the trip was a bid to highlight to local and international media the plight of school children in poorer communities like Moletsane.
Tomorrow night, Tyson will be attending the Fire and Brimstone tournament which will showcase boxers such as Corrie Sanders and Osborne "Big Daddy" Machimana. - Sapa