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A host of international football stars, past and present, will play in Cape Town to honour former South African president Nelson Mandela on July 18, the start of his 90th year. This is the second time Mandela has received such an honour and the only person whom FIFA has honoured more than once.

“There is no other former head of state than Mandela who has a grasp of the role of sport in transformation,” says Danny Jordaan CEO for the FIFA 2010 World Cup.

Besides standing against apartheid, playing football became a mental and physical diversion for inmates jailed with Mandela at Robben Island. Says Tokyo Sexwale, former prisoner and a high commissioner of FIFA’s ‘Say no to Racism’ campaign, “Football was used to fight for the change we now enjoy, it kept us alive and we forgot we were prisoners. (We) used the power of football as an instrument of resistance against the apartheid regime.”

Pelé, FIFA’s Player of the Century and Brazil’s national treasure, will also be there. Raised in a ghetto where he used a sock stuffed with newspaper as a football, Pelé won his first World Cup at age 17. Now, 30 years in retirement, he once again takes to the field. He’s 67.

Proceeds of the game will go to social programs in South Africa, including Mandela’s 46664 HIV/Aids awareness campaign.

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