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Fifa team 'moved' by meeting Mandela
A surprise meeting with Nelson Mandela on Robben Island made a moving finale on Wednesday for the visit of the Fifa technical team weighing up South Africa's 2010 world cup bid.

A surprise meeting with Nelson Mandela on Robben Island made a moving finale on Wednesday for the visit of the Fifa technical team weighing up South Africa's 2010 world cup bid.

But it was not enough to move the head of the team, Belgian soccer boss Jan Peeters, to open up on what he thought of South Africa's chances.

In a media conference called in Cape Town only hours before the five-man delegation was due to jet back to Europe, Peeters said Fifa had forbidden the team from making pronouncements on any country's merits.

Asked whether the team's visits to South Africa and Morocco -- it has yet to get to the other three bidders, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt -- enabled him to tell Fifa its decision to give the 2010 cup to Africa was a good idea, he replied: "You're asking a very intelligent question.

"Really, I'm sorry. When I answer your question I have to give you advice about South Africa and Morocco: I'm not allowed to do that."

However, the jovial Peeters, did say it had been "a wonderful week, albeit tiring".

"What has struck me is that the very first day we were welcomed by the president of the country [Thabo Mbeki], and the last day of our visit Mr Mandela himself in person visited us."

He and his fellow team members were extremely moved by the meeting on Robben Island, where Mandela was jailed for 18 years, on Wednesday morning.

"I think it was a very unforgettable moment for each one of us."

The bid committee had organised the technical team's visit with great competence, and it was clear that the whole of South Africa was involved in the bid.

"I wish you all the best: ndiyabonga [thank you]," he said as he left the podium in the Cape Town Convention Centre, where the media conference was held.

On his way out he embraced Ngconde Balfour, whom he described as "my big friend the minister of sport".

"Thank you, thank you for everything," Peeters told Balfour.

The technical team's report will go to the Fifa executive, which is scheduled to make a final decision in Zurich, Switzerland, next May.

Though Peeters was reticent, South African bid committee CEO Danny Jordaan, battling to keep his eyes open at the end of a gruelling week, was openly upbeat.

"I have no doubt that South Africa is the best bet for the African continent," he said.

However he warned that South Africa still had to secure 13 of the votes of the 24-member Fifa executive, work on which the bid committee would start almost immediately.

Balfour said the inter-ministerial committee set up by government to assist with the bid had asked Mbeki to play a role.

"And he has already done that. Letters have been written to countries where we have voting members to try get them to understand that really we are very serious about this vote.

"Ministers that go out of this country, deputy ministers, will also do the same in every country where we have a voting delegate whenever they have dinners and meetings with their counterparts....

"We want to show how serious this government is about 2010. We don't need the Dempsey factor again."

Africa was angered when Germany beat South Africa for the 2006 tournament by 12 votes to 11 after a last-minute abstention by New Zealand's delegate, Charles Dempsey.

The continent has never hosted the four-yearly event. - Sapa