Blatter salutes Madiba

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Fifa President Joseph Sepp Blatter leads the football world in saluting “his friend Madiba” with a special birthday video message to pay tribute to this “icon of humanity”.

Mandela and his wife, Graça Machel, are currently at their home in Qunu, in the Transkei, where they will host a private birthday party on Saturday to which some 500 guests have been invited.

“Today we celebrate a very special birthday – your 90th birthday,” Blatter says. “There is no greater symbol of Africa’s Humanity than you – Nelson Mandela – and what you stand for. You have given more than your share to your country and your continent, you have dedicated your lifetime to the promotion of human rights and democracy and you have led the endless fight for freedom not only of your people, the South Africans, but of all mankind. And that is why you received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. “I am proud to be your friend, dear Madiba!

“I will never forget the special day of 15 May, 2004, when you, my dear friend, came to Switzerland, to show your commitment to the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

“I am still touched by your words right after the 2010 Fifa World Cup was awarded to South Africa, when you held the Fifa World Cup Trophy and said that you felt like a boy of 15.

“Even at 90, when you smile, you still look like a boy. You, a man who talked about how inspirational the 2010 Fifa World Cup is for him and what 2010 means for him and his country.

“You are the epitome of grace and dignity; a man with determination to overcome even the greatest odds and this is what Fifa is sure South Africa will deliver to the world in 2010 – the ability to rise to the challenge with great determination, strength and dignity, as it did in bidding for 2010.

“Ke Nako – it’s time. Let’s celebrate Africa’s Humanity and another wonderful year for you, dear Madiba. For the Game. For the World. For South Africa. Happy Birthday and see you at the opening ceremony of the Fifa World Cup South Africa on 11 June 2010!”

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