20 November 2018 – Dear Guests and friends,

We are paying tribute tonight to an icon of South Africa. No doubt, that the dinner tonight and the football match tomorrow will bring South Africans closer together, contribute to promote their values and principles through football and reflect on the immense contribution these icons and global figures made to the country and the entire world.

(Nelson) Mandela, the world’s greatest humanist, the global icon who campaigned tirelessly for peace and emancipation of his people, will remain forever in our memory and our hearts.

After spending 27 years in prison between 1962 and 1990 for his role in fighting the apartheid regime, Madiba (his clan name) became the first President of post-apartheid South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He also served as one of the prime movers behind the country’s successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the first World Cup which took place in Africa. This event has contributed to strengthening and deepening patriotic ties in the young democracy. The World Cup brought together people of different races, colours and religions under the banner of the same national identity

My vision of football is also in line with Mandela’s vision of a caring society. With our program FIFA Forward, we are investing notably in youth and women’s football and creating opportunities for poor and underdeveloped countries. Football has the ability to create a better and positive future for everyone; and Mandela fully believed in this.

We share an unwavering belief in the extraordinary power of football to unite people in peace and friendship, and to teach basic social and educational values. When he was honoured and cheered by the crowd at Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium on 11 July 2010, it was as a man of the people, a man of their hearts. For him, the World Cup in South Africa truly was ‘a dream come true’. Nelson Mandela will stay in our hearts forever. The memories of his remarkable fight against oppression, his incredible charisma and his positive values will live on in us and with us.

Madiba remains one of the world’s most celebrated living icons and as an individual. Was a man whose appeal transgressed race, colour, religion and nationality. In our country, he remains a powerful symbol of hope, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation. The memories of his remarkable fight against oppression, his incredible charisma and his positive values will live on in us and with us in the worldwide football community.

Indeed, one of the most memorable and emotional moments of an unforgettable African FIFA World Cup came ahead of the Final, when Madiba took to the field to a spine-tingling ovation from the fans gathered in Johannesburg’s Soccer City. It was fitting that the man who had done so much to bring the tournament to South Africa should take centre stage as it reached a triumphant climax and, the football family can only be grateful for Madiba’s inspirational example and enduring legacy.