The football world, gathered in Brazil for Friday’s Soccer World Cup draw, mourned the passing Thursday of former South African president Nelson Mandela.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter described Mandela as one of the “greatest humanists of our time” on hearing the news.
“It is in deep mourning that I pay my respects to an extraordinary person, probably one of the greatest humanists of our time and a dear friend of mine, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela,” said Blatter.
Brazil footballing legend Pele also paid tribute.
“He was my hero, my friend,” Pele tweeted.
“He was my companion in the struggle for the popular cause and for world peace.
“Let us carry on his work. He was one of the most influential people in my life,” the soccer legend wrote.
Another former Brazil star, Romario, also took to Twitter to pay his respects.
“In fighting against (racial) segregation in Africa, Mandela marked his passage through this world with a spectacular lesson of humanity.”
Yet another onetime favourite of Brazil’s national team, 2002 champion Ronaldo, likewise tweeted his sadness.
“You changed the world. Thank you. Rest in peace.”
Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo also mourned the passing of Mandela, who died in his homeland, aged 95.
“Thanks for your work, your example. You will always be with us,” said the Real Madrid striker.
Blatter recalled how Mandela was feted at the football World Cup in South Africa in 2010, the first time the continent had hosted the event.
“He and I shared an unwavering belief in the extraordinary power of football to unite people in peace and friendship, and to teach basic social and educational values as a school of life.
“When he was honoured and cheered by the crowd at Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium on 11 July 2010, it was as a man of the people, a man of their hearts, and it was one of the most moving moments I have ever experienced,” Blatter reminisced.
“For him, the World Cup in South Africa truly was ‘a dream come true’,” he said.
He added: “Nelson Mandela will stay in our hearts forever. The memories of his remarkable fight against oppression, his incredible charisma and his positive values will live on in us and with us.”
Fifa said that the flags of its 209 member associations will fly at half-mast at its Swiss headquarters/
A moment of silence will be held before the next round of international matches.