After speculation to the contrary, South African icon Nelson Mandela did attend the World Cup final last night.
However, it would appear that the 92-year-old, who is still mourning the tragic loss of his granddaughter and reported to be in ill-health, was heavily pressured by tournament organisers FIFA to make an appearance at the showpiece finale and, as such, a war of words has broken out between the two camps.
Speaking before last night’s final, Mandla Mandela (who is the grandson of the former South African president), spoke of FIFA’s insensitive demands;
“The family has really taken a step back, we have been mourning the loss of Zenani. We have come under extreme pressure from FIFA requiring and wishing that my grandfather be at the final.
FIFA said their president Sepp Blatter wished my grandfather comes out to the final. I think people ought to understand our traditions and customs, understand we’ve had a loss. We are in mourning.
That for me would be enough reason to leave the family be for now.”
He admitted that Mandela was also under pressure simply because the watching world expected him to be at the final, and that FIFA had only served to exacerbate those expectations;
“Their focus is having this world icon in the stadium, but FIFA are not really paying attention to our customs as a people and as a family.
My grandfather is 92 next week and in poor health. The final ends late at night. That is difficult for a man of his age.”
It’s no surprise to see yet another pugnacious display of image control from football’s governing body.
Nothing is sacred, not even family mourning, except that advertising coin.