'Old John' the star name in England's final warm-up test

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The Independent Online

Those Tottenham fans with good memories will recognise the most celebrated player among England's opponents today, the Platinum Stars, but of most importance to Mbulelo Mabizela personally is whether Ledley King will remember him.

Mabizela, nicknamed "Old John", is the man who will be charged with marking Wayne Rooney should the striker play in today's final World Cup warm-up game. Mabizela played nine times for Spurs in 2003-04 before his problems with the booze got the better of him and he was moved on to Valerenga in Norway.

Today's game is a collector's item, one of the few occasions the national team have played against a club side and as such will not represent a cap for those who play. But for the players of Platinum Stars, an Absa Premiership team from South Africa's North West Province, it is the reason they have cancelled their holidays, a chance to play against footballers they ordinarily watch on television.

None of the players at Platinum Stars, who finished 14th out of 16 this season, was called up for the South Africa World Cup squad although Mabizela was rated an outside bet having once been the national team's youngest-ever captain before going off the rails. He is seen as having blown a largely promising career with drink- driving charges and a drugs ban.

Mabizela said: "I had a good start at Spurs [he scored on his debut against Leicester], but it was too short and it's something that I will always look back upon with regret. Those days are gone, though. You can't dwell on them. I have to carry on with my life and my career. I played with Ledley, [Jermain] Defoe, some of the guys that I'll be up against here.

"When I look back, I've made a lot of mistakes in my life. I made some mistakes in my personal life, things I'd rather not elaborate upon, which resulted in me leaving Spurs. Those mistakes happened and that was the reason I had to leave Spurs. I'm still being helped. I wouldn't say I'm OK now, but I feel I'm going forward now

"The way we are taking the game means it will be tough. We have just finished a close-season break so really we don't stand a chance. But going there, rubbing shoulders with some great players, it will be great for us. We will not go easy on them. It's a proper game for us. We will get stuck in, believe me. The crowd will expect a game. They will want entertainment, it will be competitive."

The match will be at the 20,000-capacity Moruleng stadium which was picked by the Football Association because of the quality of its pitch. Yesterday the painters were still at work on the parking bays in the car park, observed by a few goats and chickens. The facilities in the changing rooms are simple but decent.

The crowd will be restricted to 12,000 for safety reasons with tickets given away by local organisers. The FA is using the game as one of the public sessions they are required by Fifa to put on. The governing body has invited 28 children who have no contact with their biological parents and are cared for by a local South African project known as My Home.

Like England's Royal Bafokeng base, Platinum Stars runs on the exploration rights money from the local platinum mines. The players themselves are very well paid, earning up to 100,000 rand (£9,000) a month, which is around 10 times the average wage in South Africa – although hardly comparable to the salaries of their opponents today.

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