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Sport and family honour Mandela

Tributes were paid to Nelson Mandela at football matches across Britain as fans staged minutes of applause in his honour, while his family hailed his example of living for others.

Clapping and cheers rang out at the start of the first Premier League game of the day, Manchester United's home defeat to Newcastle United, for "a man who overcame the injustice and bigotry of being jailed in his own country for the colour of his skin".

The Scottish Professional Football League and the Football League also encouraged similar tributes.

Meanwhile in Johannesburg, Mr Mandela's family held a press conference to remind the world that his death also represents a personal loss for them.

Family spokesman Lt Gen Themba Matanzima said it had "not been easy for the last few days" since the 95-year-old died at home on Thursday.

"The pillar of the family is gone, just as he was away during that 27 painful years of imprisonment, but in our hearts and souls he will always be with us, his spirit endures," he said.

"As a family we commit ourselves to uphold and be guided by the values he lived for and was prepared to die for.

"As a family we learned from him to appreciate the values that made him the leader that was recognised by all.

"Chief among these is the lesson that a life lived for others is a life well-lived."

Downing Street said that David Cameron has written to South Africa's president Jacob Zuma and Mr Mandela's widow Graca Machel to express his condolences.

"The PM paid tribute to Mandela's extraordinary grace and dignity and the example that he set not just to South Africa but to the world on his release from Robben Island, saying 'he gave the world new hope that the deepest wounds can be healed and that freedom and reconciliation can triumph over division and hate'," a spokeswoman said.

"The PM concluded: 'He will forever have a distinguished place in history. It falls to all of us and future generations to learn from him and try to realise his extraordinary legacy'."

Politicians, celebrities and the public across the globe yesterday spoke with reverence of their memories of Mr Mandela and in recognition of his work in defeating racism.

In the UK, the Queen led the tributes to South Africa's first black president after visiting a plaque commemorating Mr Mandela's 1996 visit to Parliament.

"The Queen was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Nelson Mandela last night," a statement from Buckingham Palace read.

"He worked tirelessly for the good of his country, and his legacy is the peaceful South Africa we see today."

The Prince of Wales described the Nobel Peace Prize winner as "the embodiment of courage and reconciliation".

Westminster Abbey will hold a national service of thanksgiving for the life of Mr Mandela after the state funeral in South Africa on December 15, and parliament will hold a special ceremony to commemorate his life.

A book of condolence has been opened in St Margaret's Church at the abbey.

In Trafalgar Square last night crowds chanted "viva Madiba" and sang Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, the anthem of the African National Congress which became South Africa's national song in 1994.

Former members of the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) spoke of their grief at his death and their relief that he was at peace after a long illness.

Jerry Dammers, the founder of The Specials and writer of Free Nelson Mandela, urged people to honour Mr Mandela's legacy by doing the work he started.

He said: "'The best way we can remember him and politicians can remember him - the best tribute they could pay to him - would be to listen to what he said and act on what he said."

The Muslim Council of Britain joined the chorus of tributes for Mr Mandela, describing him as "one of the greatest campaigners of freedom".

Secretary general Farooq Murad said: "Muslims will remember him fondly, and we join South Africa's Muslims who participated in the campaign for his freedom and the struggle against apartheid.

"We convey our condolence to his family and the people of South Africa, the Rainbow Nation."

Neville Lawrence, the father of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, spoke about the dramatic impact he believes the intervention of Mr Mandela had on the quest to bring to justice his son's killers.

In the aftermath of his son's murder in 1993, he and Stephen's mother Doreen - now Dame - Lawrence met the South African when he visited Britain.

During that visit Mr Mandela shone a light on the case, saying: "We are deeply touched by the brutality of this murder, even though it is commonplace in our country. It seems black lives are cheap."

The following day the police made the first arrests in the case.

"What different evidence did they have before this man spoke that they could not have arrested these people two weeks earlier?" Mr Lawrence asked on Channel 4 News.

"Just by him saying what he said, he changed the whole direction of the case and things started to happen."

Mr Lawrence said he had been "lost" the day before the meeting - which inspired him to fight on.

"Just his presence gave you confidence to do whatsoever you felt you needed to do," he said.

During Mr Mandela's illness, he said he felt "part of his family because of the way he treated us".


From Belfast Telegraph