WORLD CUP FOOTBALL: Tragedy tears Mandela away – greatest triumph denied by the Supreme, our World’s heartfelt condolences go out to Nelson’s family …
FROM NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE
BY BARRY BEARAK
Johannesburg, June 11: Heartbreak intruded on the opening day of the soccer World Cup when Nelson Mandela’s 13-year-old great-granddaughter Zenani was killed in an auto accident here early today.
Mandela cancelled a much-heralded appearance at a tournament depicted as a triumphant showcase for his country and his continent.
Zenani was returning home from the event’s Thursday night kickoff concert in Soweto, an extravaganza that included stars like Alicia Keys and Shakira and meant to launch the contest on a joyous note. At its conclusion, the sky lit up with fireworks as happy attendees made their way to parked vehicles.
According to police, Zenani died in a one-car accident on a Johannesburg highway. The man behind the wheel, who has yet to be named, has been accused of drunken driving and may also be charged with culpable homicide, the police said.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation issued a statement saying the former President would be unable to attend the opening ceremony of the tournament. The World Cup is being played in Africa for the first time, and the presence of Mandela, the frail, 91-year-old liberation hero, was expected to be an emotional high point to one of South Africa’s proudest days.
“We are sure that South Africans and people all over the world will stand in solidarity with Mandela and his family in the aftermath of this tragedy,” the statement read.
“We continue to believe the World Cup is a momentous and historic occasion for South Africa and the continent and we are certain it will be a huge success. Madiba will be there with you in spirit today,” the statement said, using a title from the Xhosa language by which Mandela is widely known.
At the opening ceremony, one of the loudest cheers was reserved for Mandela, whose image appeared on screens to a message of hope from him. “The generosity of the human spirit can overcome all adversity. Through compassion and caring, we create … hope.”
Details of the accident remain incomplete. The Associated Press quoted a police spokesperson, Edna Mamonyane, saying the driver was found to be drunk.
Zenani had turned 13 on Wednesday. She was one of Mandela’s nine great-grandchildren. She was the grandchild of Zindzi, the elder of two daughters born to Mandela and his second wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Early reports said that Winnie had been in the car, but this was later denied.
A family spokesperson told the South African Press Association that Winnie was briefly hospitalised for shock after learning the news.
Mandela’s triumphs are well known to his countrymen, and so are his tragedies. His oldest child, Thembikele, died in a car accident in 1969. His second child, Makaziwe, died after living only nine months. His third child, Makgatho, died of an AIDS-related illness.
Shared: goals and grief – Honours even, a better start to Cup
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY KEIR RADNEDGE
“Africa is indeed happy; this is the African World Cup. The time for Africa has come. Ke Nako!” With those words – “We are ready!” – South African President Jacob Zuma opened the 2010 FIFA World Cup and talked up a significant page of sporting history.
His own national team and unintimidated Mexico then produced one of the better Opening Matches in World Cup history with a 1-1 draw which meant honours even, and thus a happy day for everyone in Soccer City.
Hard to believe that two decades ago South Africa was a pariah nation. Now the world’s focus is centred on the Rainbow Nation for all the right reasons after so many wrong ones. The World Cup has taken root on African soil which surely means that, within little more than a decade, perhaps the Olympic Games may follow.
Nelson Mandela, Sepp Blatter, Danny Jordaan and a host of believers had the vision, ever since 1994. Now, to some relief, the time for talk, for claim and counter-claim, for excessive pessimism and over-the-top optimism, has ended. The African World Cup is a reality and the Opening Match produced worthy goals.
Mexico boss Javier Aguirre had declared that this was the most important match he had ever coached but it was the hosts who made the more nervy start. Mexico’s Giovani dos Santos and Carlos Vela ripped the left flank of their defence to shreds. That does not augur well for their next two games; the spies will have taken note.
Only the alertness of keeper Itu Khune and a little luck saved South Africa from slipping behind. But the half-time break gave them a chance to understand that they had not been outclassed or outplayed. Suitably, fortified they upped the pace after the interval and went ahead through a magnificent strike from Siphiwe Tshabalala.
This is a player who spends much of his off-pitch searching great free-kick goals on YouTube. Now he has provided a collector’s piece himself with the magisterial fashion in which he converted what may also be one of the passes of the finals from Kagisho Dikgacoi. Hence Tshabalala: first South African hero of their own World Cup.
One of the factors which separates the managerial men from the coaching children is the sagacity with which they use their substitutes. In Javier Aguirre Mexico have a man of the first category, in the manner of Jose Mourinho at club level.
Aguirre threw on all his permitted three substitutes in pursuit of an equaliser and was properly rewarded when Andres Guardado provided the angled cross which was coolly converted from close range by Rafa Marquez. A captain’s goal indeed… for an appropriately diplomatic result.
As Fifa president Sepp Blatter had said before kick-off: “Congratulations to the African population, congratulations to South Africa. A dream has come true. The spirit of Africa is in Soccer City.”