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Mandela still undecided about attending opening game

sports Updated: Jun 10, 2010 19:31 IST

South Africa's former president Nelson Mandela will decide on the day if he will attend Friday's World Cup opening match between South Africa and Mexico in Soccer City.

President Jacob Zuma has issued an open invitation to the frail 91-year-old national icon, who has restricted his public appearances in recent years.

"The former president has an open invitation to attend. He wants to attend, it depends on his feeling that day," Rich Mkhondo, communications officer of the World Cup local organising committee said Thursday at a press conference in Soccer City.

"We all hope that he will be there."

There has been months of uncertainty over whether the elderly statesman, who played a central role in South Africa's bid to become the tournament's first African host, will attend the kick-off.

Mandela lived in Soweto before being jailed for 27 years between 1963 and 1990 for resisting white supremacist rule.

Four years after his release, he was elected president in the country's first democratic national elections.

President Zuma has also issued invites to the heads of states of all members of the African Union.

"We hope that the majority of them will attend," said Mkhondo.

Other dignitaries scheduled to attend the opening game include former South African presidents Thabo Mbeki and F.W. de Klerk, US Vice President Joe Biden and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.