Monday, December 9, 2013

Mandela changed course of African football in years after leaving prison

In this photo released by the Mandela Foundation, former South African President Nelson Mandela smiles as he holds the FIFA World Cup trophy, at the Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg,on May 6, 2010.

8th December 2013

A visiting Brazilian first eleven side was held to a draw by the South African host side a couple of weeks
ago, an event that the now deceased iconic leader of that country, Nelson Mandela, was beyond ability to hear about.
 Such a result is a reinvigoration of the spirit of South African soccer that was cultivated by the rise of Nelson Mandela to office in 1994, upon which the Africa Cup of Nations was held in that country and the home side took the cup, in 1996.  
And after he left office, the elder statesman added his weight for Africa, and specifically South Africa, to host the World Cup finals in 2010, which duly occurred. Those are two unforgettable moments for all.
If this was a direct personal contribution to the sport in Africa, it is something else if we now start figuring out the contribution of the iconic anti-apartheid leader in eradicating racism in the sport and in other fields, in the years after he came out of prison. 
With Mandela as president of a multiracial South Africa and respected unanimously all over the world, it became not just out of fashion but actually a mark of stupidity, to be a racist. 
With US human rights leader Dr Martin Luther King non-racialism was still a dream; by the time Mandela took and left office in South Africa, a world without racism was largely a reality, except for hard core neo-fascists locally and abroad.
While this input will be hard to measure, the holding of the World Cup finals in South Africa, and well before that, reintegration of South Africa in the sporting world from the time Mandela was released from prison early 1990 helped to change the map of African soccer.
Until that point a minor guerrilla war of sentiments was continuing between opponents of apartheid in many countries around the world, and those who didn’t care, something that changed after Mandela’s release and protracted negotiations on how a new South Africa could be put up. 
That was also the period in which democracy was making its first steps and Africa being more integrated with outside world.
Despite that there was never systematic racism in European soccer for many years, black players like the legendary Eusebio of Portugal who hailed from Mozambique, there was a new dynamic following the release of the anti-apartheid leader, and finally South Africa briefly became the home of world soccer during the 2010 finals. 
It was also during Mandela’s time in office that the South African team was galvanized, putting away divisions tied up with the apartheid legacy, but the going eventually proved to be tough. 
Vacillation at the level of principle took its toll on the country’s team; it has regularly failed to qualify for the World Cup finals. It has flashes of brilliance, just.
What made Mandela larger than life and effective in all fields, from sports to politics, and a profound influence in the African entertainment industry as an inspiring figure, even in modes of dress and fashion, from routinely formal to moderately casual, or a shining, colourful formal.
Mandela was the ultimate goodwill ambassador, an inspiration to crowds of any kind, religion or race anywhere in the world, the ultimate example of a long suffering person who hated no one, who made everyone feel safe with him, or with the values for which he stood for. 
There is still that image of the South African rugby national side participating in the World Cup for the first time in 1995 when Mandela was president; he came into the pitch, talked to the all-white side that used to be the buttress of apartheid, the Springbok, and the meeting of minds and sentiments was lasting. 
They couldn’t believe he loved them, that he was genuinely proud of that team, which made their old apartheid persuasions altogether shameful.

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