Johannesburg — Team South Africa were given a rapturous welcome and a roaring send off as they did their 67 minutes in honour of Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Wednesday.
Members of the squad took part in a synchronised ’67 minutes’ routine, filmed from high on top of the impressive stadium’s floodlights, for maximum effect, before joining in the on-field festivities.
As part of their commitment, team members wrote inspirational messages on sheets of cardboard that were to be handed to underprivileged kids later. “Go chase your dreams,” wrote two-time Olympian and the men’s 800m silver medallist from 1996 in Atlanta, Hezekiel Sepeng. He is now part of the athletics management team, putting his knowledge back into the sport, hopefully with grand results at London 2012.
The team was led by Team SA’s chef de mission, Patience Shikwambana, and made a big impression on all those gathered with their enthusiasm and professionalism. Other members of the squad included that of the Banyana Banyana women’s football side, the Proteas women’s hockey squad – including captain Marsha Marescia and world record-holding goalscorer, Pietie Coetzee – boxers, sailors and others.
Afterwards the team was asked to pack sporting equipment into boxes, hundreds of which will be distributed to deserving children. They did this with relish and a delight on their faces under cloudless Centurion skies.
Even the Banyana Banyana coach, “Shakes” Mashaba, tried his hand at golf before backing off a set of clubs that will enrichen a young child’s life. “This is a difficult game, it’s too technical – there are so many things to remember and concentrate on. The hand grip, keeping the head down, legs apart, not watching to see where you’ve hit the ball … soccer is much simpler!” he said after a few practice swings at an imaginary ball.
When the squad left they did so with music and cheers ringing in their ears. Their time on an important day for South Africa couldn’t have been better spent.