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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters Life!) - Grammy-winning U.S. singer John Legend will be performing before his favorite fans when he takes the stage in South Africa on June 10 for the official soccer World Cup concert.
The 31-year-old will be one of a long lineup of African and global music stars singing at the Orlando stadium in Soweto, South Africa's biggest black township, a day before the month-long soccer tournament kicks off.
"I love coming to South Africa," Legend told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"My fans there are some of my best fans around the world. Actually they are my best fans, they give me such energy, they sing along to everything, and it's such a great vibe every time I have been there."
Legend is expected to be joined by the likes of Alicia Keys, Black Eyed Peas and Shakira along with African acts including Angelique Kidjo, BLK JKS, Hugh Masekela and Tinariwen at what is being billed as one of the continent's biggest ever concerts.
Organizers have included local as well as global stars for the gig amid concerns that South African music would not be fairly represented at the high-profile concert.
Legend said he aimed to collaborate with regional artists at the gig, proceeds from which will go to 20 Centres for 2010, FIFA's official social campaign for the World Cup aimed at positive change in Africa through football.
"I don't want to spill all the beans now, I want it to be more of a surprise when we get there, but we certainly will be collaborating with some African artists," Legend said.
"I'm excited about it. I think it's going to be a great, great concert.
"It's a great event for South Africa to be able to host the first African World Cup, and then for the whole world to be watching and the seeing the progress South Africa has gained," he added.
"I think it (the gig) is ... really a way for music to bring everybody together, just like sport brings everybody together."
Legend said he believed the 2010 World Cup would help promote soccer in the United States, where, despite signs of progress, it is still a long way behind baseball, basketball and American football in terms of popularity.
"I think a lot of sports fans in America may be paying attention more than they ever had before," he said, adding that U.S. television coverage had helped generate interest.
"I think it's cool, soccer is something that kids play in America but it has not been a popular professional sport, but I think it is growing in popularity now."
Asked which country he would be supporting, he replied:
"Well, you know I'm an American, so I'm going to root for my home team. I know we are an underdog anyway, so it's probably not mostly likely that we will win, but I hope they do well."
The United States is grouped with Algeria, England and Slovenia in the first phase of the tournament. The United States and England get the group under way on June 12.
"I am hoping to watch the U.S.-England match and I think I am going to go see the South Africa-Mexico (June 11) match as well," Legend said.
Editing by Steve Addison