Cape Town, May 1(ANI): South African defender Aaron Mokoena, who will lead his country in the opening game of the World Cup, has revealed that he is a survivor of one of the worst massacres in his country's history.
Mokoena was 11 years old when the gunmen of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) drove into the Boipatong township on June 17, 1992 in search of supporters of their African National Congress (ANC) rivals and slaughtered 46 of his friends and neighbours.
"The IFP arrived in vans with guns, knives and clubs and started killing everyone they could find on the streets. My mother was dragging me, my brothers and my sisters from house to house to avoid the shootings," The Sun quoted Mokoena, as saying.
"Many people died that night and the next day there were rumours the IFP were coming back to kill all the young men in the township. The only way my mother could protect me was to dress me in my sister's clothes and disguise me as a girl."
"At the time I didn't really understand what was going on. Now I understand more about the power struggle that took place in my country after the fall of apartheid," he added.
The massacre caused the ANC to walk out of the negotiations to end apartheid, accusing the ruling National Party of complicity in the attacks. It also drew the attention of the United Nations Security Council, which urged a full investigation into the incident.
The Portsmouth midfielder left South Africa 10 years ago, but mother Maria and his family still live in the Johannesburg area.
Mokoena further said that South Africa has undergone significant change in his absence, and refuted reports that the World Cup could be marred by violence.
"We have held big tournaments before and nothing major has ever happened. So I am not worried. So much has changed in my country since the end of apartheid," Mokoena said.
"Soccer was always considered to be the black man's sport. The white people played rugby, but then Nelson Mandela came along and showed us that sport is the way to unify people," he added. (ANI)