Beckham using star power for England again

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David Beckham will be one of the star attractions at the 60th FIFA Congress on Thursday as he once again lends his weight to England's bid to stage the 2018 World Cup.

The England midfielder's role as an ambassador of the 2018 bid is one of the key reasons for his presence in South Africa after an Achilles injury ruled him out of this year's tournament.

He will be joined in supporting England's bid at the Sandton Convention Centre by former South Africa and Leeds defender Lucas Radebe at the Bidders Exhibition which follows the conclusion of this year's Congress, where delegates from the 208 FIFA member associations have gathered.

Other bid teams have their star names on hand too with the Holland-Belgium bid enjoying the backing of Dutch legends Johan Cruyff and Ruud Gullit, while Russia have Arsenal star Andrey Arshavin representing them.

The USA 2018-2022 bid board includes such luminaries as former United States president Bill Clinton and Hollywood star Brad Pitt, although neither is expected to attend.

On Wednesday night, South African president Jacob Zuma dedicated the first World Cup on African soil to Nelson Mandela.

There is hope among FIFA and South Africans generally that the iconic 91-year-old - the first democratically-elected president of South Africa when he came to power in 1994 - will be well enough to attend at least part of the opening match of the World Cup between the hosts and Mexico.

President Zuma hailed Mandela's role in securing the right to host the finals back in May 2004.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 60th FIFA Congress on Wednesday evening, he said: "Nelson Mandela worked hard so that we should win the right to host this tournament.

"We dedicate the World Cup to him. There are a few moments that define a nation's history. We stand on the threshold of one as we draw closer and closer to Friday, June 11 when the World Cup officially begins."

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said Friday's opening match would be the culmination of a "love story" between him, his organisation and the African continent.

"We started a love story because we trusted Africa, we have confidence in Africa and that is why we have decided to host the World Cup in South Africa," he said.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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