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Nelson Mandela dies at 95

Nelson Mandela, the former South African president and anti-apartheid icon who helped seal his country's bid to become the first in Africa to host a World Cup, has died at the age of 95.

Nelson Mandela attended the 2010 World Cup final
Nelson Mandela attended the 2010 World Cup final.

Mandela, who had been hospitalized in recent weeks in Pretoria with a serious lung infection, was revered for his fostering of democracy in the country he served as president from 1994 to 1999 after spending 27 years in prison during the apartheid system. He took over as president four years after being released from jail.

Mandela's reputation grew to include his ability to inspire sports teams to victory simply with his presence, known as "Madiba magic."

Tragically, he kept a low profile during the 2010 World Cup after his great-granddaughter was killed in an automobile accident following a concert to kick off the opening night of the event. 

After much anticipation and speculation that he would remain absent as his family continued to mourn the 13-year-old Zenani Mandela, he attended the World Cup's closing ceremonies amid a thunderous mix of vuvuzelas and roars from the crowd.

Players across the globe expressed their grief following the news, Cristiano Ronaldo leading the football community's tributes for Mandela on social media, tweeting:

With his feats always closely linked to sport, Mandela also touched Gerard Pique, who hoisted the World Cup for Spain with the former South African president beside him.

South African footballer Steven Pienaar posted a series of tweets on his passing.

Brothers Rio and Anton Ferdinand were among a host of current and past Premier League players to hail the legacy left by Mandela.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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