Middlesbrough and England centre back Gareth Southgate has dismissed stories abo
Middlesbrough and England centre back Gareth Southgate has dismissed stories about him 'snubbing' a meeting with Nelson Mandela yesterday...
Southgate did not attend yesterday's emotional meeting when a party of England players and FA officials, led by captain David Beckham, presented the former President of South Africa with an England shirt.
The reason he did not attend was purely the fact that, after such a long flight from London, he was keen to properly prepare for tonight's match in the ABSA stadium and that included catching up on some sleep.
"To suggest there was any snub from the players who did not attend is simply pathetic," Southgate wrote in London's Evening Standard.
"Nelson Mandela is without question one of the most important figures in the modern world and that made it a difficult decision for me not to go and meet him. I am a great believer that you should take these sorts of opportunities in life.
"Unfortunately, though, I managed only two hours sleep on the flight over so the early start to visit Mr Mandela and the additional travelling involved would not have been right for me as an individual in order to prepare for tonight's match.
"I am representing my country as a footballer and it is only correct for me to do that in a professional manner."
The FA's Head of Media Relations Adrian Bevington also voiced his opinion as to the suggestions. "We are very unhappy with these suggestions. It is ludicrous to suggest that the England squad have, in any way, snubbed Nelson Mandela. Nobody would dream of doing so," he said.
"It was purely down to logistics on the back of what had already been a long flight from England.
"Mr Mandela was only available to see us on the day before tonight's game, so the trip was made optional to ensure that the players could decide how best to prepare for the match.
"We do not believe that Lucas Radebe intended to criticise the players. He expressed surprise but did not use the word 'snub' in any way.
"We have received a fantastic reception and reaction from our South African hosts, who have assured us that they are delighted with the commitment we have shown to their country since our arrival."
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