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Sunday, July 11, 2010
Mandela's appearance was awe-inspiring

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela's appearance at the World Cup was inspirational.

Posted by Jemele Hill

JOHANNESBURG -- One of the golden rules of journalism is that you never, ever cheer in the press box.

I willingly broke that rule before Sunday's World Cup final when Nelson Mandela made his appearance at Soccer City.

I clapped for the 91-year-old Mandela, who was driven around the field on a golf cart as the crowd cheered enthusiastically and blew vuvuzelas. He's someone I've idolized my entire life, and I never could have dreamed that one day I'd be this close to him. What Mandela has done for South Africa and the world is unmatched, and even though I was seated in the outdoor media area high above the field, it will go down as one of the most memorable moments of the World Cup. Maybe even my life.

When you consider that Mandela's 13-year-old great-granddaughter was killed in an apparent drunken-driving accident the day of opening ceremonies, that the former South African president and freedom fighter could make it to the final game is nothing short of inspiring.

Wearing a fur cap, Mandela waved to the masses and talked enthusiastically with FIFA president Sepp Blatter before he was driven away. I soon won't forget that image, and I'm sure the 80,000 or so people who are here won't, either.