JOHANNESBURG - South Africa sought inspiration for Thursday's Confederations Cup semi-final against Brazil by meeting Nelson Mandela on Wednesday. "We got goose-bumps when we met Mr. Mandela, a supremely charismatic person, someone who is so calm, his presence and the way he spoke to us, made us calm," South Africa coach Joel Santana told a news conference. "As each of the players greeted him, he wished each good luck. It was an historic moment for us, to meet such a world-wide symbol. It was a very proud moment for our team," the Brazilian-born coach added. The 91-year-old former South Africa president, frequently referred to by his clan name Madiba, has often tried to inspire South African sporting teams. His story of his interaction with the 1995 Rugby World Cup-winning side, including wearing a Springboks jersey to the final, is being made into a film by Clint Eastwood. Santana will also have to deal with the mixed emotions of trying to plot the downfall of his native country. "Playing Brazil is a professional occasion, and South Africa has accepted me and given me the opportunity after 30 years of club coaching in Brazil to be at the head of their national squad at the Confederations Cup and in the future at the World Cup," he said. "We are going to try and match them as much as possible and play football as beautiful as Brazil and not be fearful of a powerful Brazil team," Santana added. His plans could be disrupted, however, by doubts about key striker Bernard Parker, who has a knee injury and must pass a late fitness before the match.
24 June 2009
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