18/07/2012 10:13, Report by Nick Coppack in Durban
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Reds honour Nelson Mandela

Believe it or not, Manchester United does not dominate the headlines in South Africa today.

The Reds may be preparing to take on Amazulu FC in Durban tonight as part of the MTN Football Invitational challenge, but it's Nelson Mandela's 94th birthday that's captured the hearts of the country.

Rightly so, too. There are far more important things in life than football and one of those is Nelson Mandela.

He's one of history's great figures, revered universally. An inspirational leader, he led the fight for racial equality in South Africa and succeeded in removing the oppressive apartheid regime.

He spent 27 years - 1962 to 1990 - in prison before becoming the country's first democratically elected president (and its first black president) in 1994. Without Mandela, South Africa may still be divided, democracy but a dream.

Early this morning, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson appeared on live TV from the team's Durban base to take part in celebrations for "Madiba". Yesterday, too, he spoke of Mandela's great achievements.

"It's a privilege for us to be here on his birthday," Sir Alex said. "The impact he's made in South Africa is huge.

"The thing that strikes me most of all – and I’ve met him two or three times – is that there's no bitterness about him. It's an example to the world.

"After what he endured and suffered, he has no bitterness. You have to be special to do that, to put that to one side and try and get on with life and try and influence this country in a massive way.

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