A man who suffered 27 years of imprisonment because he demanded basic human rights for himself and his people, bore no bitterness. A man of great dignity and wisdom. A man who lit up the world with his smile, who broke the stiffness of formality by wearing splendid bright coloured African shirts to various meetings. A man whose single symbolic gesture unified a nervous nation by the wearing of the once hated green & gold South African rugby shirt at the Rugby World Cup Final 1995. Nelson Mandela delighted his country and the world’s TV audience when South Africa’s first black president came onto the pitch wearing what was, until that moment, the white man’s springbok rugby shirt.
“Any other president would have worn his best suit”
The victorious South African rugby captain, Francoise Pienaar, said last night “Any other president would have worn his best suit. He didn’t. He wore our rugby shirt”. In that single moment he told his country (and the world) that the beautiful rainbow nation had a bright, united, future. That’s why we put the photo on the cover of the book. Many believe that Mandela changed South Africa partly through sport. What many don’t know, however, is the impact the shirt had on the South African team when he entered the team dressing room before the game (we’ve added the full story below – from the book).
“Sport has the power to change the world.”
Madiba (his clan name) once said “Sport has the power to change the world.” We, at the great Sportsmanship Programme, have been so inspired by this quote that we use on our facebook banner, in our videos and almost every presentation or story telling session, whether it be to global sports institutions, or a local inner city school. In Robin Island prison, they had a league which Mandela was not allowed to play in as he was kept in isolation, but he did still watch and cheer them on. The prisoner players knew they were part of the universe of footballers. Thank you Nelson Mandela for inspiring us all. I also quoted his sports quote in September in Belfast Stormont Government Building at the launch of a Diversity & Sport programme which has since been adopted by CONCACAF and is rolling out to 24 countries next year.
Tata taught us how to forgive.
His peace and reconciliation programme was unique and shocking yet, effective. It set an example to the rest of the world – particularly those suffering conflict. In fact, I know that Northern Ireland sent groups out to South Africa to learn about Mandela’s Peace and Reconciliation Programme. It’s no accident that so many referred to him as ‘Tata’ (father).
“Sport can create hope where once there was despair”.
He used sport to heal racism, bigotry and hatred. He once said “Sport can create hope where once there was despair”. Under his tenure, South Africa has had highly successful Football World Cups, Rugby World Cups and many more high profile sporting events. Nelson Mandela delivered. He was a ‘great beacon of light and hope’ who led the way for South Africa’s transition to democracy.
Nelson Mandela World Peace Day
We call for a Nelson Mandela World Peace Day to instigate and strengthen peace initiatives, to stop any feuds – at least for one day , and embrace the opposition (just like English and German soldiers did in the WW1 and feuding American and Iranian footballers did in the 90s and Muslims and Catholics did in Serbia this year (they played football together and became friends).
Thank you Nelson Mandela
Thank you for inspiring us all. May your legacy live on forever, your spirit shine brightly around the world, and particularly, on your beloved Rainbow Nation, South Africa, to whom we send our deepest condolences. And now may you, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, rest in peace.
See how football kept the Robin Island prisoners’ dignity in "We knew we were part of the universe of footballers"
See also the Nelson Mandela Story (below) from the Great Moments Of Sportsmanship book.
Nelson Mandela, calms the rage and boosts the strength 1995
In the final few minutes before the kick-off of the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final the South African team dressing room was at boiling point. The mood in the dressing room was ramped up to the point that the players were in danger of exploding on the pitch and losing their discipline.
The captain, Francois Pienaar later said he was finding it difficult to keep the rage under control. The atmosphere was so intense. Then suddenly the dressing room door opened and in walked their new president, Nelson Mandela dressed in a South African rugby shirt. The players seemed to find a certain calmness from his presence and pride in their president wearing their beloved national rugby shirt.
After wishing each player well, Mandela left the dressing room and a sense of calm combined with a new steely determination fell across the room. The South African team went out and beat the New Zealanders in an intense rugby world cup final. For the first time the whole of South Africa was totally united. All races and religions were hugging each other. Pienaar said that, after the game, when President Mandela presented him with the cup, President Mandela said "Thank you very much for what you’ve done for South Africa”. ” Pienaar said "Thank you for what you’ve done."