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Crystal Palace were first British team to visit Nelson Mandela's South Africa

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FORMER Crystal Palace chairman Ron Noades has recalled his team's historic visit to South Africa during the fall of apartheid The team was the first British side to visit following the 1990 release from prison of anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, whose death last Thursday has prompted an outpouring of grief and reflection across the world. The players were invited and paid by South Africa's M-Net TV shortly after their 1990 FA Cup Final against Manchester United. International isolation of South Africa was starting to end as its racist laws enforcing the dominance of white people were being repealed. Mr Noades told the Advertiser: "We took a team out and played two games – against the Kaizer Chiefs in Johannesburg and Orlando Pirates in Durban. "Apartheid had finished so the whole world was watching and we were the first English team to go out there. "We went out and gave coaching tips to the kids in Soweto – there were hundreds of kids. We had a great trip, a really great trip." Mr Noades also spoke at a birthday party organised for Mr Mandela – although he did not meet the man who would become, in 1994, South Africa's first black president. He said: "I just spoke about apartheid and the country getting on together. "I just stood up and said what I wanted to say – I did not write it down or anything. "They were starting off on a brilliant journey – no-one know what was going to happen. "Apartheid was over and it really depended how they went on from there as to whether there was unity or whether there was not – it was a difficult time." At the time Mr Noades was facing accusations of racism from some media back home, and recalls having to defend himself in a hasty press conference when he arrived in Johannesburg. He said: "It was at the time of the cup final and I was being accused of being a racist. "We had six black players on our team – so it was a bit surprising. How can I have been a racist with six black players on my team? "So they wanted an explanation for the news from England and the first thing they did was hold news conference about this. And I must have satisfied them." Mr Noades said the team's trip was of huge interest across South Africa - and he strongly believes in sport's power to make a difference. He said: "With Righty [Ian Wright] and Brighty [Mark Bright] on our team was fantastic for South Africans." "I think (sport) is the most important thing of the lot "South Africa is full of people who would be great at sport if they had the facilities."

Crystal Palace were first British team to visit Nelson Mandela's South Africa


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