World Cup waits for Nelson Mandela

He is South Africa's greatest asset, the architect of the Rainbow Nation, and holds the very rare distinction of being a statesman admired throughout the world. As such, who would be better to present the World Cup – that symbol of global unity – than Nelson Mandela?

It is a question the world is asking, and even the Spanish and Dutch, who contest the final at Soccer City in Johannesburg tonight, will agree that one of the most successful tournaments ever should be crowned by an appearance by the perfect ambassador for peace and unity that the World Cup represents.

Mr Mandela has kept a low profile throughout the month-long jamboree. The former South African president is a frail 91. He was due to open the tournament, but pulled out at the last minute after his 13-year-old great-granddaughter Zenani was killed in a road accident.

Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, the world football governing body, has hinted that Mr Mandela could attend this evening's final. If he does, he might be collared to hand over the trophy.

"If he comes and stays to the end, then it is possible he will present the trophy," Mr Blatter said. "Presenting the trophy would be a fitting honour for South Africa and Africa as Mandela was one of the driving lights to bring the World Cup to South Africa."