Opening address by President Nelson Mandela at the African Cup of Nations Tournament

13 January 1996

Mr Issa Hayatou;
Mr Joao Havelange and other Guests of Honour;
Mr Solomon Morewa;
Players and Supporters.

The countdown is over.

For the next three weeks leading soccer nations in Africa will bless liberated South Africa with the best display of skills our continent can offer. Millions of soccer lovers throughout the continent, and further afield, will join us in this festival of African friendship.

On behalf of all South Africans, I welcome you all. We embrace our brothers and sisters across the continent, who will be with us in spirit during this exciting period.

The decision of the Confederation of African Football to hold the 20th Nations Cup Tournament in South Africa is the best gift Africa could present to our sporting community and, in particular, to the soccer fraternity. For this, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You are once more affirming that our young democracy has found a niche within Africa's family of nations, to learn and to contribute her utmost.

Soccer is one of the sporting disciplines in which Africa is rising to demonstrate her excellence, for too long latent in her womb.

We are certain that this Tournament will, by its artistry, its spirit of sportsmanship, and organisation, justify the trust that FIFA is placing on our continent. Its success will be measured not only in the number of goals scored: but also in the way it draws our nations closer to one another, as our talented youth add another brick on the edifice of Africa's renaissance.

It is now my privilege to declare this, the 1996 African Cup of Nations Tournament open.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation