Pretoria - As South Africa counts down the final hours to Friday's World Cup kick-off, former President Nelson Mandela says the competition is more than just a game.
In a message to the FIFA congress, which was read by President Jacob Zuma on Thursday, the 91-year-old Mandela said the event was "one of the greatest" in Africa's history.
"It symbolises the power of football to bring people together from all over the world, regardless of language, the colour of one's skin, political or religious persuasion."
There have been doubts whether Mandela will make an appearance because of his age. But it has been confirmed that the former president will briefly greet players and fans at the opening game between Bafana Bafana and Mexico on Friday.
Last week, Madiba met Bafana Bafana's World Cup team at the Nelson Mandela Foundation offices to wish them well for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Captain Aaron Mokoena introduced Mandela to all the team members, including coach Carlos Parreira and the technical and management teams.
Mandela will be 92 years old on 18 July. His birthday has been endorsed by the United Nations as International Nelson Mandela Day. On the day, people throughout the world are encouraged to give at least 67 minutes of their time to do good work.
This is in honour of the 67 years that Mandela sacrificed to make South Africa and the world a better place.