PRETORIA, South Africa — A South African community once riven by anti-foreigner violence came together Sunday in the spirit of Nelson Mandela to play a little soccer.
The so-called "goodwill games" were among activities around the world marking Mandela Day, which falls on Mandela's July 18 birthday and was conceived as an international day devoted to public service. Community leaders in Atteridgeville organized the unity-building tournament of teams of South Africans, Zimbabweans, Mozambicans and Somalis who all live in this poor, black neighborhood on the western edge of South Africa's capital.
Mandela, who turned 92 years old on Sunday and is largely retired from public life, was spending the day with his family in Johannesburg.
"Today is an opportunity for millions of people around the world to look inside themselves and find those beautiful qualities as any human being has and say: 'I am able to make a difference to my neighbor, to someone underprivileged, I can extend my goodness to other people,' " Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, said Sunday.
She said that while her husband was no longer so physically strong, "his spirit is strong as ever."
President Jacob Zuma and other government officials were marking the day in Mandela's birthplace of Mvezo by planting trees and painting classrooms in that far southern region of the country that is among the poorest in South Africa.
President Barack Obama, in a statement released Sunday by the White House, wished Mandela a happy birthday.
"We are grateful to continue to be blessed with his extraordinary vision, leadership, and spirit. And we strive to build upon his example of tolerance, compassion and reconciliation," Obama said.
He encouraged the public to heed the call to engage in some form of service to others, and said of Mandela, "We strive to follow his example of what it means to truly give back to our communities, our nations, and our world."