Nelson Mandela gets a rousing ovation at World Cup’s closing ceremony

Reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa — One of the highlights of the 2010 World Cup took place about 10 minutes before the players took the field to warm up for Sunday’s final.

After a star-studded closing ceremony headlined by Shakira and a herd of 13 faux white elephants, former South African president Nelson Mandela made a brief appearance, greeting the 80,000-plus at Soccer City Stadium.

Mandela, who will turn 92 this week, was driven out onto the field in a golf cart, accompanied by wife Graca Machel and flanked by at least half a dozen security personnel.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner was wearing a heavy coat and a black Russian-style hat. He waved to the fans as he circled the stadium and then made his exit after being greeted and applauded by Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA; Issa Hayatou of Cameroon, president of the Confederation of African Football; and Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s secretary general.

Mandela was greeted with tremendous applause, with many of the fans standing out of respect for the African leader and statesman.

The ceremony was attended by heads of state from across Africa, including South African President Jacob Zuma and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.

Dutch and Spanish royals were also present, as were Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan, model Naomi Campbell, tennis star Rafael Nadal and Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman.

Far from perfect

Howard Webb’s version of a perfect game is when “nobody is speaking about the officials. They are speaking about the excellent game of football and the skill of the players.”

By that definition the British referee was far from perfect Sunday because after the game everybody was speaking about Webb and the 14 yellow cards he issued — more than twice the record for a World Cup final. Nine of those went to the Netherlands.

The Dutch were especially critical of Webb for not showing a second yellow card to Spain’s Carles Puyol when he appeared to impede Arjen Robben on a breakaway in the 82nd minute and for awarding a goal kick to Spain on the play that preceded the only score of the match.

“We are angry that we lost because we came so close,” Netherlands forward Dirk Kuyt told reporters. “I know you cannot blame others, but the ref was more favorable to Spain.

“We had many more yellow cards than we deserved.”

Uruguay Forlan is golden

Diego Forlan of Uruguay was awarded the Golden Ball as the World Cup’s best player while Germany’s Thomas Mueller won the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer with five goals and the Best Young Player award

Forlan was voted the most outstanding player of the tournament by accredited media after leading his team to the semifinals. Forlan narrowly beat Netherlands playmaker Wesley Sneijder, receiving 23.4% of the votes to 21.8% for the Dutchman. Spain striker David Villa was third with 16.9% of the votes.

The 20-year-old Mueller helped Germany take third place with his five goals and three assists. Forlan, Villa and Sneijder also scored five times but each had one assist.

Spain’s Iker Casillas won the Golden Glove as the top goalkeeper.

By the numbers

With its victory Spain on Sunday became just the eighth country to win a World Cup. And it is the first European country to win a World Cup in a tournament held outside Europe.

The Netherlands, meanwhile, is the only country to play in three World Cup finals without a win.

With an average of 2.27 goals a match, the 2010 World Cup was the second-lowest-scoring in history behind Italy in 1990, where 2.21 goals were scored per match.