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Now captain, Mokoena dressed as girl to avoid massacre

By Robyn Curnow, CNN
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Meet the World Cup home team's captain
  • Aaron Mokoena will be filing a video diary for CNN during the World Cup
  • South Africa captain says his mother Maria has been a 'pillar' in his life
  • Mokoena has the hopes of nearly 50 million South Africans on his shoulders
  • South Africa face Mexico, France and Uruguay in Group A

Aaron Mokoena is South Africa's captain. He is keeping a video diary of his World Cup experience for CNN. Tune in again soon to watch it.

Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) -- Millions of South Africans will be willing their national team captain to do their country proud in the World Cup but Aaron Mokoena's mother won't be happy until her son is holding the trophy in his hands.

The midfielder is on the cusp of a proud moment not just for his country, but also his continent, as Africa stages its first World Cup.

If he is nervous at the onerous task in front of him he shows no sign of it but as he prepares to lead South Africa into battle against the globe's finest players, he is always mindful that the support he received from his family played a big part in propelling him towards the leading role he has today.

Maria Mokoena once dressed her young son Aaron as a girl to avoid a massacre of young boys in the Johannesburg township of Boipatong where he grew up, and the soccer star, who plays for English club Portsmouth, says she has played a huge part in his development.

He acknowledges that his brothers and sisters, but especially his mother, helped him through a childhood under apartheid.

Video: Captain's mom still works as a maid
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Video: South Africa celebrates World Cup team

"Thinking about it, there were moments where I could see what was going on. But feeling it was another thing at that young age," he told CNN.

"She has been a pillar, really. Not for me but for the family. She has been a strong woman by herself. She has done well."

As for Maria, she can't hide the pride she feels that it is her son, out of a population of nearly 50 million people, that will lead South Africa into the biggest tournament in their history.

"Always when I watch my son play soccer there's a pride in my heart. I want him to do well. That's my wish. If he loses, in my heart, there is a pain -- a real pain in my heart.

"He is a good son who has always helped his mother. I didn't make him a star. God made him like that. I taught him how to pray. I want to see him holding the [World] Cup."

Mokoena responded: "No pressure! I believe it's possible. It's a mountain to climb, you know. But most of the time when my mom talks things happen.

"We worked so hard as a team. We prepared very well, enjoying the hard work. So we just have to go there and do our best."

He is a good son who has always helped his mother. I didn't make him a star. God made him like that.
--Maria Mokoena, Aaron Mokoena's mother

South Africa face Mexico, France and Uruguay in their group and the huge sense of responsibility Mokoena feels towards his country is matched by that to his mother.

He explained: "She always wants us to win, as everyone does. But most of all for her, seeing me playing, she is absolutely over the moon and proud.

"She enjoys watching. She doesn't really understand much of football, but she enjoys seeing me playing, and watching the games where I am involved. But once we start to lose, she is so getting angry.

"But this woman, I don't think really all of us, or myself, I would be who I am, without her. You know, she's been really strong. And she still keeps going."

So how does Mokoena feel to have a nation's hopes on his shoulders going into the world's biggest sporting event?

"Well, I feel proud of myself," he says. "I mean, it's been a hard journey. It's been a long journey. [There have been] obstacles, but I manage to go through those things, you know.

"And I worked so hard, to get where I am. There a lot people that I can think who really played a big role in helping me to get where I am. But I sacrificed a lot, had desire, commitment. And most of all talent. And that really brought where I am at the moment."

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