10?000 to sign giant Madiba birthday card at soccer match

2013-07-11 00:00

EMOTIONS ran high at Moses Mabhida Stadium yesterday as KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize was the first to sign an enormous birthday card for ailing former president Nelson Mandela.

The completed card, which will be signed by 10 000 people, will be presented at the stadium before the soccer match between touring British giants Manchester City and Durban’s AmaZulu on July 18 — Madiba’s birthday.

While yesterday’s function also served as an opportunity for the provincial government to welcome City — who arrive at King Shaka International tomorrow — into the country, it was Mkhize’s words for Mandela that stood out most.

“Madiba remains our father, our leader and our inspiration. His ill health has hurt all of us, but any one extra day with him here with us is a blessing. I hope there will be many more days,” he said.

“Madiba’s legacy is one of compassion and one that encourages every South African to do something good for the benefit of the country.”

Mkhize said it was for these reasons that the Mandela Day celebrations were so special, and that the Durban community owed it to the former president to come out in their numbers to be a part of his birthday celebrations.

“More important than who wins the match will be how we use the moment to celebrate our unity,” the premier said.

City will play against SuperSport United in Pretoria on Sunday before making the trip back to their camp in Durban as they proceed with their pre-season training.

There will be an open training session with the City squad at Moses Mabhida on Wednesday that members of the public will be allowed to attend, and there are more than 30 000 tickets left on sale for what is expected to be a capacity crowd of around 45 000.

Tickets range from R95 (a tribute to Mandela’s 95th birthday) to R350.

“We are confident that we will sell all of the tickets,” said executive chairperson of event organisers Matchworld Lyndon Barends.

“We had the same issue last year [with the Manchester United tour] in Durban when we only sold out two days before the game.”

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