South Africa came close to achieving Nelson Mandela's dream of a united nation during the World Cup, President Jacob Zuma said on Sunday during celebrations to mark Mandela's 92nd birthday.
"We came very close if we did not fully achieve your dream, Tata (father), of one nation united in its diversity, celebrating its achievements and working together," Zuma told thousands of people gathered at Mandela's birthplace in the Eastern Cape village of Mvezo.
South Africa successfully hosted the World Cup which ended on July 11, the tournament drawing rarely-seen patriotism and unity among South Africans of different races.
Zuma hailed Mandela for being a symbol of unity and tolerance, saying he was the first person to be honoured with a world recognised special day.
"There has never been a leader who has been honoured like this before," said Zuma.
Mandela's birthday was in 2009 recognised by the United Nations as "Nelson Mandela International Day" and was being observed across the world.
The increasingly frail Nobel peace laureate was celebrating the day quietly with his extended family and grandchildren at his home in Johannesburg.
Mandela was the country's first black president, and served only one four-year term after the fall of apartheid in 1994.
"Of all the things that Madiba cherishes up to this day, it is the love of all humanity, freedom, justice and compassion for all people," said Zuma.
In his honour, ordinary South Africans dedicated 67 minutes of their time to community service, a number representing the years Mandela spent in politics.
Some people renovated schools, planted vegetable gardens and cooked meals for people in retirement homes to mark the day.