Cape Town - South Africa's national football and rugby teams will play on the
same day at the former World Cup showpiece stadium in Soweto to honor
Nelson Mandela, bringing together the country's two most popular sports
that once portrayed its racial divisions.
The South African sports
ministry said Tuesday that the Nelson Mandela Sports Day on August 17 at
FNB Stadium - formerly Soccer City - was aimed at uniting the country
and the world "in celebration and promotion" of the anti-apartheid
While calling it a celebration, the ministry also
noted the somber mood in South Africa, with its inspiring former
president, now 94, still critically ill in the hospital.
launch happens at a time when South Africa is a nation in distress
following the hospitalization our father and icon Nelson Mandela, who
also happens to be the primary inspiration behind this initiative," the
On the day, South Africa's football team will face
Burkina Faso in a friendly and the Springboks will start their Rugby
Championship campaign against Argentina, both at the 94 000-seat FNB
Stadium on the outskirts of Soweto, a site which also holds significance
for sport and for Mandela.
The old FNB was where Mandela made his
first speech in Johannesburg and held his first major rally after his
release from prison in 1990. Soccer City was where Mandela made his last
public appearance at the 2010 football World Cup final, the first time
the tournament was held in Africa.
South Africa's first
democratically elected president has strong ties to sport, having
famously supported the rugby team when it won the World Cup in 1995, and
then the football team a year later when it lifted the African Cup of
Nations trophy at the FNB.
Rugby and football were previously
examples of South Africa's racial segregation, with rugby followed by
whites and football by blacks until Mandela's act of reconciliation and
unity at the '95 Rugby World Cup.
The August 17 sports day also will
have a music concert and another football game between former South
African and Italian internationals. South Africa's continental champion
netball team and leading Springboks try-scorer Bryan Habana will be
recognised, the sports ministry said.
South Africa's minister of
sport and minister of arts and culture will visit Mandela's foundation
offices in Johannesburg on Wednesday to deliver messages of support for
the ailing former president, they said.Confirmation of kick-off times will be released on Thursday.
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