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SOUTH AFRICA – Tragedy struck the World Cup host nation on the eve of the start of the tournament!

Nelson Mandela will miss today’s World Cup opener between Mexico and South Africa due to the death of his great-granddaughter. The former South Africa president and iconic world figure has been gripped with heartbreak and supporters close to him felt it was in his best interest to miss the opening festivities. He canceled a much-anticipated appearance at a tournament that has been depicted as a triumphant showcase for his country and his continent.

Zenani Mandela, 13, was killed in an auto accident early on Friday. Zenani was returning home from the event’s Thursday night kickoff concert in Soweto, an extravaganza that included stars like Alicia Keys and Shakira.

According to police, Zenani died in a one-car accident on a Johannesburg highway. The man behind the wheel, who has yet to be named, was accused of drunk driving and may also be charged with culpable homicide, the police said.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation issued a statement saying the former president would now be unable to attend the opening ceremonies of the tournament. The presence of Mandela, 91, was expected to be an emotional highpoint to one of South Africa’s proudest days.

“We are sure that South Africans and people all over the world will stand in solidarity with Mr. Mandela and his family in the aftermath of this tragedy,” the statement read.

“We continue to believe the World Cup is a momentous and historic occasion for South Africa and the continent and we are certain it will be a hige success. Madiba will be there with you in spirit,” the statement said, using a title from the Xhosa language by which Mr. Mandela is widely known.

South Africa will take on Mexico today and the hopes of a whole nation will be on Bafana Bafana, the national soccer team. No host country has lost its opening match, so there is undoubtedly a great deal of pressure on the team. In addition, no host country has failed to qualify for the next round of the tournament and South Africa is certainly not in what anyone would call an easy group. This tragedy, hopefully, will inspire the team rally behind an emotional leader.