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Good Natured Milla

Mark Namanya/ Twenty Ten

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

Roger Milla is an approachable former football star.

On December 3, 2009 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), the final 2010 FIFA World Cup draw took place. The whole world of football was gathered, from Brazilian legend, Pele, and FIFA President Sepp Blatter, to iconic English footballer, David Beckham.

Outside the Westin Grand Hotel, which is located just next to the CTICC, a short, old, balding man was taking a walk, it was Roger Milla. Following him into the hotel, he walks past Ghanaian legends Anthony Baffoe and Abedi Pele, former Nigeria defender Augustine Eguavoen, Zambian great Kalushya Bwalya and South Africa’s only white footballer, Matthew Booth, who are milling about in the lobby.

Deep in conversation with a Cameroonian entourage, Milla does not seem to mind being approached by awe-struck journalists. The memory of Italia ’90 when the great Cameroon team became Africa’s first country to reach the World Cup quarter finals was close to mind. The four goals he scored at the tournament were momentous, particularly two he struck against Colombia in the second round that guaranteed his country a berth in the quarter finals. It is impossible to forget the famous celebration dance round the corner after eccentric Colombia goalkeeper Rene Higuita was punished for nonchalantly straying out of position.

The 58-year-old poses for a picture and gives warm handshakes to those who approach him in the lobby. As time passes, Milla stays around meeting ex-players, current footballers and FIFA delegates. Looking good for his age, it is clear that he takes good care of himself.

Fast forward to June 2010, the star is found sauntering through the Sandton Shopping Mall in Johannesburg. Unlike ex-Dutch star Edgar ‘Pitbull’ Davids who has won himself no friends by turning down photo opportunities with fans, Milla has an entirely different nature. He stops for photos and signs autographs for the few who recognise him.

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