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IRVIN Khoza yesterday paid tribute to Nelson Mandela and his two successors, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, for their unwavering support for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
Khoza was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Confederations Cup at the Coca-Cola Park Stadium.
Khoza, chairman of local organising committee, also showered Fifa president Sepp Blatter with praise for his confidence in the African continent to deliver a great World Cup.
"South Africa appreciates the role played by Madiba, Mbeki and Zuma in the bidding process and all the preparations for the Confederations Cup and the 2010 Fifa World Cup," Khoza said.
This is the first time the two money-spinning tournaments take place in Africa.
Mandela and Mbeki were part of the team that went all over the world to help the bidding committee in its efforts to convince world soccer leaders to vote for South Africa on May 15 2004 in Zurich, Switzerland.
Zuma signed all the contracts with Fifa and the 17 guarantees for the World Cup. Zuma was the acting president at the time.
Cameroonian Issa Hayatou, who is also a Fifa World Cup organising committee convenor, shared Khoza's sentiments.
"I feel very proud and emotional. I'm confident it will be a great tournament," he said.
The opening ceremony, led by singer Lebo M and other musicians, was a great spectacle. The crowd erupted into wild celebrations when Blatter introduced President Jacob Zuma to officially declare the tournament open.