Nelson Mandela cancelled his appearance the World Cup Opening Ceremony today due to the unfathomably sad news that his great-granddaughter has died. Zenani Mandela, 13, was killed in a car accident while on her way home from last night’s World Cup kick-off concert (where the Black Eyed Peas, Shakira, and others played). It’s a sad day for Nelson Mandela, for all of South Africa, and a tragic start to the World Cup for soccer fans worldwide.
The saddest part? The crash was preventable. According to reports, the driver of the car has already been charged with drunk driving.
A spokesman for the World Cup’s South African organizing committee said, “We are sure that South Africans and people all over the world will stand in solidarity with Mr Mandela and his family in the aftermath of this tragedy.” That’s an important sentiment, since officials in South Africa had been viewing this World Cup as a chance to present themselves to the world as a healed, not divided, nation. The Nelson Mandela Foundation released this statement:
“We continue to believe that the 2010 FIFA World Cup is a momentous and historic occasion for South Africa and the continent and we are certain it will be a huge success. Madiba will be there with you in spirit today.”
Yes, the tournament goes on. This morning’s opening match, South Africa vs. Mexico, is happening life right now in Johannesburg’s new Soccer City stadium. I’m pulling for South Africa, with all of my heart.
To see a video of Mandela with his great-granddaughter Zenani (pictured with him above), click here.