Black Stars visits Nelson Mandela at home
JOHANNESBURG - The heartbreak lingered, yet Ghana’s soccer team exited from the World Cup in heroic fashion after coming within an inches-too-high kick of advancing further than any African team in history.
A day after their devastating shootout loss to Uruguay in the quarterfinals, the Ghanaian players received a South African version of red-carpet treatment— visits Saturday to the homes of former president Nelson Mandela and his ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, both icons of the anti-apartheid movement.
“It’s a dream come true,” said midfielder Derek Boateng after the team met Mandela at his mansion in an affluent Johannesburg neighborhood.
“He is a legend, you know, and everybody is talking about him,” Boateng said. “It is the first time we have met him.”
Earlier, the team visited Madikizela-Mandela at her home in the black township of Soweto.
“It was a big privilege for me and the players,” said Ghana’s goalkeeper, Richard Kingson, after that meeting. “She advised (us about) our life and our future, and how to be a good guy and how to control things.”
Sowetans greeted the players with applause and cheers as they got off their police-escorted bus, which bore a sign reading, “The Hope of Africa.”
The team plans to return to Soweto for a more extensive public appearance on Sunday, and also to visit a shopping mall in Johannesburg, according to organizers of the events. Fans wishing to attend were urged to wear the Ghana colors of green, red and yellow.
The governing African National Congress chimed in, expressing discouragement that once again no African team had reached the semifinals yet lauding Ghana’s Black Stars.
“Well-done Ghana for doing the continent, mother Africa and all of us as Africans proud,” said ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu. “We salute you.”