I’m delighted to hear South Africa’s former President Nelson Mandela is planning to attend the World Cup’s opening and closing ceremony.  South Africa’s sports minister confirmed 3 June that Mr. Mandela requested and was granted tickets to the festivities.

Mr. Mandela’s family had previously said the 91-year-old South African icon was too frail to attend the first football World Cup held on African soil.

When I think back to South Africa winning the World Cup hosting rights in 2004, the indelible image is of a smiling Mr. Mandela holding the World Cup trophy.  His lobbying efforts on behalf of South Africa were crucial to the country staging the soccer extravaganza.

VOA's Chinedu Offor

In fact, my VOA colleague Chinedu Offor says he believes it’s primarily because of Nelson Mandela that South Africa is getting ready to stage the football fiesta.  “Without Mr. Mandela, there would be no World Cup in South Africa,” says Chinedu.