Football pays tribute to Nelson Mandela, former South Africa president 0

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has led the sporting tributes to his “dear friend”, South Africa’s first black president Nelson Mandela, who has died at aged 95.

Nelson Mandela holding the World Cup

Nelson Mandela holding the World Cup

Mr Mandela had used sport to bring his country together following strict racial segregation by his predecessors. “It is in deep mourning that I pay my respects to an extraordinary person,” said head of world football Blatter. “He and I shared an unwavering belief in the extraordinary power of football to unite people.”

Blatter added: “He was probably one of the greatest humanists of our time.”Mr Mandela once stated: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people, in a way that little else does.”

Fifa’s president hailed Mr Mandela’s impact on football’s 2010 World Cup in South Africa and said there would be a minute’s silence as a mark of respect ahead of the next round of international matches.

Football and other sports had been targeted for sanctions during the country’s Apartheid rule, leading to bans from the Olympic Games and various World Cups and an almost complete isolation by the time Mr Mandela was released from his 27-year prison sentence in 1990.

With Mandela’s leadership, his African Nations Congress used sport as a way to unite the nation and South Africa were allowed to send a team to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and enter the 1994 football World Cup qualifiers, long before the change in the political system was complete.