Madiba, the world will never forget

JOHANNESBURG - The European Champions League matches this week displayed signs reading: Madiba, The World Will Never Forget.

The World Club championship that kicked off in Morocco this week will also be dedicated to the global icon; a man who used sport to transform Mzansi’s image and the image of his people.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter this week released a long statement eulogising the man he called a personal friend. He spoke of Madiba as the only global leader to use sport as a tool to unite people and redefine a country’s international image.

The South African Football Association dedicated the remainder of this year to the man who played a pivotal role in the readmission of the country back into Fifa in 1992.

Madiba also played a major role in the country hosting the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations tournament, the 2010 World Cup among other sporting codes he helped in redefining their course.

According to political commentators this week, using sport to unite people was fundamental to Mandela’s political philosophy. This they say was born out of his 27 years incarceration where he observed some of his comrades playing football on the grounds of the Robben Island Prison.

So, long before he was released from prison, Mandela had discovered that only sport would bring about multi-racial harmony among people.

This was aptly revealed in 1995 when, wearing a Springbok jersey, he stood side by side with World Cup-winning captain Francois Pienaar. For a sport, together with cricket which was considered exclusively white, Madiba had managed to bring together a divided society with one stroke of genius.

It is reported; Mandela defied his advisors to wear the Springbok jersey and on reflection, that picture of him and Pienaar remains one of the most enduring images of his presidency.

Pienaar, like most young white people, grew up believing that Mandela was a terrorist, hell-bend to wipe out the white race. But after meeting him, he described that association as the symbol of everything that is good about humanity.

Safa president Danny Jordaan who was engaged in two World Cup bids — one in 2006 and the other, a successful one in 2010 — said Mandela was a miracle maker.

“Any country can put together a programme of stadiums and airports and roads but we had Nelson Mandela. Other countries used to complain that it was not equal.

They said Mandela belonged to the whole world and not South Africa alone.”

Unfortunately, when the 2010 World Cup matches started, Mandela was already ill and could not enjoy the fruits of his labour.

As the world prepares to bury this extraordinary individual, I would like to add my voice and say, this man was somehow holy! Some of us are privileged to have lived during his era.

*Feedback: sports@dailynews.co.zw.

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