Football stars are coming to honour Madiba

The second instalment of football's tribute to the icon of the struggle for human rights and freedom, Nelson Mandela, is finally going to happen on the birthday of the world's favourite old man.

The second instalment of football's tribute to the icon of the struggle for human rights and freedom, Nelson Mandela, is finally going to happen on the birthday of the world's favourite old man.

When Madiba turns 89 on July 18, one of the world's favourite icons, the perennial star of football, Pele, will be on hand to wish him happy birthday.

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, widely regarded as the Einstein of modern football, will be leading an array of stars, old and new, who will be paying homage to the man who helped the country bag the rights to host the World Cup in 2010.

In the company of South Africa's Nobel Peace laureates FW de Klerk and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Thabo Mbeki and the leaders of football in the country, Madiba said we should accept the privilege of hosting the world with humility and without arrogance.

That is the key value that should underpin whatever we do when preparing for the successful hosting of the World Cup.

When Tokyo Sexwale suggested that Zinedine Zidane and Marco Materrazzi play a "peace" match on Robben Island following the notorious head-butt that led to the dismissal of the virtuoso from the last World Cup finals, many thought he was joking.

He probably was, even though he has now added another dimension to it.

Fact of the matter is that the "reconciliation" match has now taken a life far bigger than the small matter of a head-butt between two ferocious protagonists.

That is a celebration of all that is good about humanity, ie leadership and the possibility of people of different races and cultures living and playing peaceably together, as opposed to people oppressing or discriminating against others for being different from themselves.

When the more than 50 world-renowned players accepted the invitation to play in this tribute match, they did so in order to advance their own personal values that resonate with what our society stands for.

Reconciliation, transformation and empowerment.

Fifa is aware of this fact and that is why it too, as the largest sporting federation in the world, is now making the promise of football being "for the game, for the world".

The award-winning stars include Ruud Gullit who once famously dedicated his European footballer of the year award to Madiba and South Africa during our anti-apartheid struggle.

Our own stars from the Class of 96 are going to be there - Phil Masinga, Mark Fish and Lucas Radebe.

The stars are coming out to South Africa and will shine at Newlands in Cape Town. It is up to us to show our appreciation by going out to enjoy "the beautiful game" and to celebrate the "old man", Madiba.

l Tim Modise is the 2010 World Cup SA Local Organising Committee's head of communications. - For your suggestions, queries and more on 2010 e-mail TimM@2010saloc.com

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