Nelson Mandela’s family will decide in the next 24 hours if he will be attending the final (Getty)

(WFI) Nelson Mandela will present the trophy to the winners of the World Cup final on Sunday, if he is fit enough to attend FIFA president Sepp Blatter said.

The family of the 91-year-old former president of South Africa has yet to confirm if Mandela will definitely grace the Soccer City final with his presence.

“It would be a wonderful moment for him, for football and Africa if this could be a possibility,” Blatter told reporters on Thursday.

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, whose appalling human rights record has been condemned for many years by human rights groups, is among 15 heads of state confirmed to attend the final.

Responding to criticism over Mugabe’s invite, a spokesman for South Africa’s department of international relations, told African media that the Zimbabwean leader was a head of government, recognised by the United Nations, African Union and Southern African Development Community. “He is not under any sanctions,” spokesman Ayanda Ntsaluba was quoted as saying.

The South African government confirmed that heads of state from Lesotho, Swaziland, Togo, Malawi, Comoros and Mozambique and Gabon were among Africa’s leaders attending. Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who helped launch Brazil’s 2014 logo yesterday, is also expected to be there.

The names of the government leaders and royalty from Spain and the Netherlands heading to the final have yet to be confirmed.

Hollywood stars including Morgan Freeman, Charlize Theron and Leonardo di Caprio will be present at the match and closing ceremony.

The 30-minute ceremony will take place at 18.30 ahead of the showpiece final, featuring a cast of 780 members, spectacular performances and unique pyroctechnics.

Colombian pop star Shakira and local afro pop band Freshlyground will perform their hit Waka Waka, which has topped the global music charts in 15 countries; it was the most watched video on the internet in June with up over 70 million hits on You Tube.

Multiple Grammy Award winners Ladysmith Black Mambazo along with South African and Africa’s top musicians and dancers are also taking part.

The closing ceremony will be broadcast live in 215 countries to more than 500 million viewers.

Soccer City stadium will open its gates on Sunday at 14.30, six hours before kickoff.

Villa and Sneijder in line for Golden Ball award
Spain’s David Villa and Holland’s Wesley Sneijder, joint top-scorers at the World Cup with five goals, are shortlisted by FIFA to win the coveted Golden Ball award.

The two go head to head in Sunday’s final at Soccer City when both teams are vying to be crowned world champions for the first time.

Accredited members of the media will select the most outstanding player of the South African tournament.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said the World Cup had seen “some great team efforts and some fantastic individual performances with stars emerging to show their unique brilliance and flair on the world’s greatest sports stage”.

The 10 nominees in alphabetical order are: Urguguay’s Diego Forlan; Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan; Spain’s Andres Iniesta; Argentina’s Lionel Messi; Germany’s Mesut Ozil; Holland’s Arjen Robben; Germany’s Sebastian Schweinsteiger; Holland’s Wesley Sneijder; Spain’s David Villa; and Spain’s Xavi.

FIFA will announce the winner of the adidas Golden Ball after the final on Sunday. France’s Zinedine Zidane won the Golden Ball award at the 2006 World Cup.

Today, FIFA also revealed the three nominees for the Hyundai Best Young Player Award: Germany’s Thomas Müller; Giovani Dos Santos of Mexico; and Ghana’s Andre Ayew.

FIFA said in a statement: “All three of the young players shortlisted today have demonstrated exceptional skills during the tournament as well as youthful and refreshing playing styles combined with tactical maturity.”

Gold ball for final
Adidas has unveiled the official match for the final – the Jo’bulani, a
gold-coloured version of the Jabulani, the eight-panel ball used during
the tournament.

It was personalized by FIFA shortly after Spain beat Germany

The adidas Jo’bulani is produced specially for the final (adidas)

on
Wednesday; 60 balls were delivered to the Netherlands and Spain
training camps by FIFA officials ahead of Sunday’s final at Soccer City.

FIFA rejects appeal for “penalty goal” rule
Despite Luis Suarez’s deliberate handball that denied Ghana a last-16 victory and a place in the semi-finals, Blatter insists players at the World Cup have been mostly well-behaved.

Blatter told reporters on Thursday that he was pleased to read statistics showing the World Cup had so far produced fewer injuries, yellow cards and red cards than Germany 2006. The number of players sent off in the tournament is a little over half the figure who were red-carded at the finals four years ago.

“This is the fair play [of FIFA’s campaign]. It means the players are respectful in front of their opponents and this is important,” Blatter said.

Ghana’s players and the nation as a whole certainly has plenty to say about lack of fair play at the World Cup, after Suarez put two hands on the ball to prevent Dominic Adiyiah’s header crossing the line in the 122nd minute of their last 16 clash. Gyan missed his resulting spot-kick, Uruguay went on to win the penalty shoot-out and Suarez, who was red-carded, was hailed a hero in the South American country.

After being cheated out of a semi-final berth, Ghanaians earlier this week called on FIFA to alter the rules, arguing the Black Stars should have been awarded a penalty goal.

Blatter yesterday flatly rejected this proposal, telling reporters that any changes to the laws of the game could only be made by the International Football Association Board.

But he confirmed that discussions over the possible introduction of goal-line technology would be reopened at an IFAB meeting in October.

Blatter, who had been opposed to the technology, backtracked on his stance in the wake of the controversy surrounding a goal by England’s Frank Lampard against Germany that clearly crossed the goal-line

English referee Howard Webb (Getty)

but was not given by the referee.

He said FIFA had already received ideas from different companies about how goal-line technology could be installed.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke gave a strong hint that at the very least two extra referees would be used at the Brazil 2014 World Cup.

In May, FIFA gave its backing to the system piloted by UEFA in the Europa League that has now been extended to the Champions League. Next season, additional referees – one on each goal-line – will assist the referee in making decisions about incidents that occur in the penalty box.

Proud milestone for English ref
Sunday’s final is a huge moment for Howard Webb who becomes the first Englishman to officiate a World Cup final since Jack Taylor reffed the 1974 showdown between West Germany and the Netherlands. Englishmen Darren Cann and Mike Mullarkey are his assistants in the final.

The 38-year-old has earned his spot at the final. Webb, who made his Premier League debut in 2003, took charge of the 2009 FA Cup Final and a number of matches at last year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup and FIFA Confederations Cup. Also on his impressive CV is the 2010 UEFA Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan.

Richard Scudamore, CEO of the Premier League, praised the trio: “We see the hard work and professionalism of Howard Webb, Darren Cann and Mike Mullarkey week in week out when they are officiating in the Barclays Premier League. So, it is great to see their fantastic season, where they have already represented English refereeing in the UEFA Champions League Final, topped off with the ultimate appointment – the FIFA World Cup Final.

AP journalist dies
Robert Millward, chief sports writer for the Associated Press, was found dead in a hotel room in Johannesburg on Thursday. The 58-year-old British reporter died of natural causes , AP said.

Millward had been filing football stories just hours before his collapse, the news agency reported.

AP sports editor Terry Taylor said: “We loved his company as much as he loved big assignments, especially the World Cup. We will miss his good cheer and we are very, very saddened by his loss.”

INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
reports from Johannesburg

World Cup 2010 Team Profiles now available in PDF–another INSIDER exclusive!

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