The world came to Soweto yesterday for a celebration of soccer, music and unity on the eve of Africa's first World Cup, with a concert featuring international headliners Shakira, the Black Eyed Peas and Alicia Keys.

Warmup acts played for hours before the internationally televised portion of the concert at Orlando Stadium began at 8 p.m. with a frenzy of flag waving, drumming and African-inspired dancing.

Veteran South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela took the stage with "Grazin' in the Grass" a No. 1 international hit in 1968. He was quickly joined by a new South African star, Lira, who covered the late Miriam Makeba's "Pata Pata," another worldwide hit that originated in South Africa.

An exuberant Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in full South African green-and-yellow fan regalia, was treated like a rock star as he led the crowd in cheers for Nelson Mandela, who is credited with sealing South Africa's bid to host the World Cup.

Tutu also acknowledged the fans from around the world who have come to South Africa for soccer's premier event.

"We welcome you all. For Africa is the cradle of humanity, so we welcome you home," he said.

About a third of the seats at Soweto's 40,000-seat Orlando stadium were blocked off for the stage and backstage. Most of what was left were filled, as was a dance floor on the pitch.

"This is a showcase," concertgoer Nana Masithela said as she entered Orlando yesterday. "We are showcasing ourselves, to say, 'Blacks can do it!' "


* Three British students were killed when a bus crashed near one of South Africa's World Cup host cities, police and British officials said.