Footballers honour Mandela

2009-07-03 16:04

Johannesburg - Professional soccer players from around the world gave former president Nelson Mandela an award for peace in Johannesburg on Friday.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation said the award recognised Mandela's contribution towards non-racism and peace and his commitment to football.

FIFPro, world body for professional football players, honoured Mandela at a small ceremony in Houghton, the foundation said in a statement.

Foundation trustee and former Robben Island inmate Tokyo Sexwale received the award on behalf of Madiba.

FIFPro executive member for Africa Thulaganyo Gaoshubelwe, said the award symbolised footballers' respect for Mandela.

"We as world football players feel honoured to have lived in the same era as Nelson Mandela," he said at the event.

"Through football, we will do what we can to spread peace. We will fill the stadia and spread the message to bring peace. We will use our status as you have done to advance the goodness of the human race."

Accepting the award, Sexwale joked about life on Robben Island.

Even though the prisoners had broken the laws of the apartheid government, they always adhered to Fifa’s football rules, Sexwale said.

He said during the apartheid years, political activists pleaded with Fifa to impose a ban on South Africa.

After his release Mandela personally phoned Fifa to have the ban lifted.

"Nelson Mandela stood for us, for all of us. It is now time for us to stand and continue his legacy," Sexwale said.

Chris Fortuin, FIFPro division Africa executive member said: "This is the first and only award of this nature that FIFPro will confer on anyone."