By EVE CHEGE
Football stars across the world have taken to Twitter to express their sadness at the death of Nelson Mandela.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Rio Ferdinand and Jack Wilshere, and many clubs, are among the game’s big names expressing their grief over loss as they mourn the death of political icon of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s inspirational freedom fighter and first black President.
Within minutes of the news breaking in the wee hours of Friday morning, the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jack Wilshere and Rio Ferdinand were on the social networking site to pay tribute.
Clubs including Manchester United and Chelsea also expressed their sadness that the former South Africa president had passed away at age 95.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter paid tribute to a man who “will stay in our hearts forever”. He said: “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.
“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. For him, the World Cup in South Africa truly was ‘a dream come true’.
“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.”
FA Chairman Greg Dyke said: “Nelson Mandela had that amazing ability to live through real injustice.
“He was one of the greatest men of any generation. Partly because of what he achieved but more so for his ability to forgive.”
In 2003 a delegation of England players – including David Beckham, Michael Owen and Rio Ferdinand – went to meet Nelson Mandela, prior to playing in Durban.
David Beckham, the former England captain who was pictured with Mandela in 2003, wrote: “My heart goes out to the people in South Africa and Mr. Mandela’s family. We have lost a true gentleman and a courageous human being.
“It was truly an honor to have known a man who had genuine love for so many people. Rest in peace.”
Here are some of the featured tweets from the football stars:
Thankful Madiba for your legacy and your example. You’ll always stay with us.
1:44 AM – 6 Dec 2013
“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear”. Love this one! Thoughts with his family! Great man! NM!
1:24 AM – 6 Dec 2013
RIP #NelsonMandela – the real inspiration.
1:01 AM – 6 Dec 2013
A hero is someone who has given his life for something bigger than oneself…The world lost a hero, Africa lost a father…RIP Mandela
2:33 AM – 6 Dec 2013
I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul
2:46 AM – 6 Dec 2013
Such sad news but what a great man and huge inspiration. RIP Nelson Mandela
1:04 AM – 6 Dec 2013
An inspiration to all of us. RIP Nelson Mandela. Thank you for everything you have done!
3:34 AM – 6 Dec 2013
R.I.P Nelson Mandela, such an inspiration for the humanity. Will be always remembered. Hero of our days.
2:20 AM – 6 Dec 2013
The Football Association is sad to hear about the death of Nelson Mandela. May he rest in peace.
2:32 AM – 6 Dec 2013
RIP Nelson Mandela. A tweet could never do justice to the greatness of the man.
1:08 AM – 6 Dec 2013
To all of our South African supporters, all around the world, our condolences on the passing of a remarkable man. RIP #Madiba
1:28 AM – 6 Dec 2013
We are saddened to hear of Nelson Mandela’s death. He was a truly great man.
1:21 AM – 6 Dec 2013
RIP Nelson Mandela. No words to describe the goodness you have brought to this world. Sad to see you go. Inspirational, my only ever hero.
1:05 AM – 6 Dec 2013
RIP Nelson ‘Madiba’ Mandela (1918-2013).
1:57 AM – 6 Dec 2013
Rest in peace @NelsonMandela, an example of fight. Descansa en paz Nelson Mandela, un gran ejemplo de lucha. Descansa en pau #Madiba.
RIP Nelson Mandela. An inspirational and incredible man
Just heard sad news about Nelson Mandela at premiere of his film. A truly courageous & inspirational man. RIP #Mandela
Sad news from SA. I join the millions of people to thank a father of many and a great leader Nelson Mandela for all the good he has done
RIP Nelson Mandela