Mandela hails Ghana World Cup amid Hilton arrest drama

Johannesburg: South African icon Nelson Mandela has personally hailed Ghana`s ousted World Cup team, as socialite Paris Hilton`s marijuana arrest gave a celebrity drama twist to the quarter-finals.

The former President on Saturday welcomed the Black Stars it his Johannesburg home the day after they crashed out of the tournament in a thrilling penalty shoot-out with Uruguay.

"They represented the continent well and although they did not qualify for the semi-finals they can return home with their heads held high," the 91-year-old`s office said in a statement.

Argentina and Paraguay meanwhile became the latest World Cup casualties as the quarter-finals drew to a close.

Germany knocked out Argentina in a 4-0 thrashing in Cape Town watched by Chancellor Angela Merkel and South African President Jacob Zuma.

In the late match, Paraguay were sent home after Spain finally managed to crack their defence with seven minutes remaining, booking a ticket to the semi-finals with a 1-0 win.

Spain will play Germany in Durban on Wednesday. Uruguay and the Netherlands will face off Tuesday in Cape Town.

Africa bemoaned Ghana`s exit after the team`s World Cup run ended in a dramatic shoot-out following a missed penalty by striker Asamoah Gyan that hit the bar in the last minute of extra time.

The penalty came after a shot at goal by Ghana was blocked by Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez with his hand.

"Africa was robbed," said the Cape Town-based Weekend Argus in a front-page headline yesterday. "That was the overwhelming feeling after Uruguay beat Ghana, Africa`s last World Cup hope."

"Africa`s dream shattered," lamented a newspaper in Zimbabwe.

"It was a cruel end to the game," the newspaper said. "Sadly Gyan missed and as he cried Saturday night, Africa cried with him."

The team`s visit to Mandela`s house came after hotel heiress Hilton`s midnight court drama competed for press attention with mourning over the end of Africa`s World Cup dreams.

The American party girl was arrested for alleged possession of marijuana at a World Cup match in Port Elizabeth but a judge tossed out the charges against her after her friend, former Playboy Playmate Jennifer Rovero, pleaded guilty.

Rovero, 31, was ordered to either spend 30 days in jail or pay a USD 128 fine. She paid the fine.

South African authorities said yesterday that Rovero had 14 days to leave the country or face deportation.

"She is prohibited to enter the country again until the decision has been overturned on appeal and she can only do so (appeal) after two years," said Ronnie Mamoepa, spokesman for the home affairs ministry.

The women were arrested at the Brazil-Netherlands quarter-final in Port Elizabeth after police smelt marijuana and approached them.

In a Twitter post, Hilton played down the incident and said she still loved South Africa.

"Hey guys, there`s a lot of crazy rumours going around. Just want you all to know the truth. Everything is completely fine," she said.

"I was not charged or arrested, cause I didn`t do anything. I was assisting the police with the investigation and answering their questions.

"Everyone was super nice and friendly to me. I love South Africa! Such an amazing place, especially during The World Cup!"

But police spokeswoman Sally de Beer said the heiress, who appeared relaxed in court with her blonde hair in two ponytails, had been arrested and charged.

"She was arrested and then the charges were formally withdrawn in court," she said.

"Maybe what`s she`s trying to say is that she was cooperative, which apparently she was, very sweet and cooperative."


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