Animal sacrifice scheduled for World Cup

JOHANNESBURG - South African traditional leaders plan to perform ritual animal slaughters to bless stadiums for the 2010 World Cup tournament ahead of the start of the showcase event next June, they said on Friday.

Zolani Mkiva, chairman of the Makhonya Royal Trust, a grouping responsible for co-ordinating cultural activities, said the tournament, the first to be held in Africa, needed to be blessed in true "African style".

"We must have a cultural ceremony of some sort, where we are going to slaughter a beast (cow)," said Mkiva.

"We sacrifice the cow for this great achievement and we call on our ancestors to bless, to grace, to ensure that all goes well. It's all about calling for the divinity to prevail for a fantastic atmosphere."

South Africa is set to host the World Cup - the world's most watched sports spectacle - in less than eight months, with the tournament expected to attract about 500,000 foreign tourists.

Mkiva said the Trust has sent letters to the chief executive and chairman of the World Cup Local Organising Committee (LOC), proposing traditional ceremonies to be performed at each of the 10 stadiums that are going to be used for the event.

The officials have yet to respond to the request.