Bring back the trophy - Mandela`s message to Proteas

Last Updated: Feb 02, 2011, 12:03 PM IST

Johannesburg: Poor health may have left him bed-ridden but South Africa`s iconic former President Nelson Mandela is eagerly looking forward to the cricket World Cup in the sub-continent and has just one message for the Proteas -- "bring back the trophy".

Even as his doctors expressed concern that the ailing 92-year-old world icon was getting too many visitors to enable him to recover properly, President Jacob Zuma spent over an hour with him at his home here yesterday.

Zuma had just returned from consecutive visits to the World Economic Forum in Davos and then the African Union in Addis Ababa.

Mandela is being treated for a respiratory ailment after spending two days in hospital last week that sparked worldwide concern over his health.

Zuma, while meeting the Proteas before their departure for India, said that Mandela had asked him to convey the message to the team.

"We will support you to the final until you bring the trophy back and hand it over to President Nelson Mandela. Cricket is a national asset and the nation is fully behind you as your victory is our victory," Zuma told the national cricket team at the presidential guesthouse in Pretoria.

"I met (Mandela) this morning and promised him that you will do your best and make the nation proud. He supports you all the way, and will be watching the games as much as possible on television," he said.

Smith, who also celebrated his 30th birthday on Tuesday, said the side has been left inspired by Mandela`s message.

Zuma said Mandela had "smiled broadly" when he spoke about the Proteas: "He supports you all the way and will be watching you."

"Go teach them a lesson...come back and hand over the trophy to Mandela. I promised him this morning that you will be doing your best and will make the country proud," Zuma said.