BY: Donna Bryson
Associated Press Writer
JOHANNESBURG – Shakira danced with school children in Soweto. Juanes debuted a single. Akon launched a clothing line.
And even a few celebrities with more than one name showed up for the World Cup.
The tournament that kicked off in Johannesburg on June 11, being held for the first time in Africa, is the biggest event on the calendar of the world’s most popular sport. It has drawn hundreds of thousands to South Africa and attracted an even bigger television audience. If you were in the business of being famous, would you miss it?
Some celebrities came to work. The main events were an opening ceremony June 11 with American singer R. Kelly, and a June 10 concert featuring Shakira, the Black Eyed Peas and Alicia Keys. That was the night Colombian rocker Juanes, in a multicolored warm-up jacket, debuted his newest single, “Yerbatero”.
Fellow Colombian Shakira was among the stars who combined work with philanthropy. She spent hours at a school in the famous Johannesburg township of Soweto, where she traded some dance steps with students and spoke with them about the importance of education.
“I wish that every kid in the world has a happy childhood and access to a good education,” she said.
Schoolgirls in red and black printed dresses showed off Zulu steps, and a local dance troupe demonstrated gumboot dancing, which originated among South African miners. Shakira reciprocated with a few steps in the dance that accompanies “Waka Waka — This Time for Africa”, the official song of the World Cup.
Shakira told reporters the World Cup is “an enormous opportunity in which the world comes together to bring to light themes like education.”
Hours before appearing with Shakira on stage at the World Cup concert, Keys held a news conference to promote her foundation, which provides AIDS treatment to children.
Singer Akon attended the opening game, and also is using the World Cup opportunity to promote a charity, his Konfidence Foundation, which supports education, sports and health projects in his native Senegal. Akon is launching a line of clothing inspired by football team uniforms and sporting the slogan “made in Africa, made me beautiful.” Some proceeds of sales of the shirts, tracksuit jackets and shorts will go to Konfidence.
John Travolta and wife Kelly Preston visited a charity run by one of South Africa’s best known children’s advocates — Nelson Mandela. The Hollywood couple handed over a check for 70,000 rand (about $10,000) at the headquarters of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, where children treated them to a drum concert.
South Africa’s first black president set up the fund to provide a variety of services for children, including support for street children and the children of refugees. In a recorded message played for Travolta during his June 12 visit, Mandela urged people to protect society’s “most valued asset, its children.” Travolta on Saturday urged other stars to use their status to contribute to Mandela’s legacy.
The Black Eyed Peas were able to meet with South Africa’s first black president, before Mandela went into seclusion following the June 11 death in a car crash of his 13-year-old great granddaughter. Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas said, “It was one of the best moments of my life”, saying she and the 91-year-old Mandela flirted.
The Black Eyed Peas said they were moved to see so many nations coming together to celebrate football.
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