Maradona visits main South Africa World Cup stadium
By Nkemeleng Nkosi, Associated Press Writer
JOHANNESBURG — Argentina coach Diego Maradona toured the main stadium in Johannesburg for the World Cup on Thursday on his last day in South Africa.
Maradona also handed out gifts to children and football players at a school in Soweto’s Orlando East area.
Danny Jordaan, the head of the local organizing committee, accompanied Maradona to Soccer City, where the World Cup opening ceremony and final will be held. The former Argentina playmaker exchanged football shirts with Jordaan and showed some of his skills by playing with one of the Jabulani footballs that will be used during the World Cup.
Maradona was also accompanied by the president of the South African Football Association Kirsten Nematandani and its chief executive Lesly Sedibe.
Maradona said he was impressed with the progress of the stadium, where he hopes his team will be playing in the final in July.
“They did a great job, a big congratulations to all the people who worked here,” he said. “I have been to many stadiums and this one gave me a big impression and I hope we can use it for the final.”
Jordaan said he was inspired by Maradona’s visit.
“It’s wonderful to have one of the great players of the world to bring a message of warmth and support but also of the expectation of what this World Cup will deliver to the world of football and to the people the world,” he said.
Children at Silelekela High School were equally excited to see one of their football heroes.
Owen Mathebula, a 17-year-old football player at the high school said he was grateful for the opportunity to meet Maradona.
“Maradona is a legend, I pay respect to him,” Mathebula said. “It is also inspiring to us because this is a once in a lifetime thing and we must enjoy and appreciate it.”
Silelekela High school received two computers, footballs and caps with Argentina’s team name emblazoned on them. Maradona also gave the football team school kits.
“I spend a week in South Africa and I can see people are friendly,” Maradona said. “I don’t have any doubt that this is going to be a great World Cup.”