I have been honouring and giving respect to Nelson Mandela’s sports life since Madiba turned 80 years old. This year, when he turns 95, is my 15th edition of ‘A Sports Portrait of Nelson Mandela: South Africa’s Loyal sports Fan’. I was motivated by the idea to do a tribute from and on behalf of South African sport because Madiba has done so much for non-racial sport, prior to his political imprisonment and in his years of release from prison.
Madiba has helped unify sport in South Africa, supported South Africa’s national teams and players, encouraged and supported South Africa’s international bids such as the 2004 Olympics and 2006 and 2010 Football World Cup Finals, met national teams and players prior to international competitions, been an enthusiastic and patriotic supporter and given South African sport international legitimacy.
South African sport would not be honestly documented if we do not give tribute to Madiba, for all that he has done for us as a non-racial, democratic nation. South Africa will go on to have many happy sporting moments, but our memories of Madiba’s participation in sport at whatever level, would forever remain with us.
Hopefully, this tribute will go a long way in reminding us of Madiba’s contribution to post-apartheid, non-racial sport in a democratic South Africa.
Mandela has always shown an interest in sport. His chosen sport was boxing. Mandela recognises and supports all sports which involve his beloved South Africa. He is a model citizen for our country, encouraging us to pursue recreational activity and attain positive benefits from such participation. In his lifetime, Mandela has boxed, played tennis and basketball, met several South African and international sports leaders and athletes and proudly supported the Springboks and Bafana Bafana, amongst others, all in his support for South African sport.
Nelson Mandela believes fully in the positive effects attained from participation in sport and recreational activities. From his boyhood days he has enjoyed recreation in the form of football, ball-room dancing, boxing, tennis and physical exercise. President Mandela said that his daily physical exercise programme during his imprisoned years played a significant part in keeping him sane and mentally alert.
For all his interest in and support of South African sport, Former President Nelson Mandela must be recognised for his resistance to apartheid and racial sport and his personal commitment to have South Africa legitimately accepted by international sport once apartheid was officially abolished.
Without any doubt, Mandela made an insurmountable contribution to sports unification by hosting and meeting several international sports leaders, motivating for South Africa to be rid of its pariah status and for South African sport to be legitimately accepted as a member of the international sports family.
Nelson Mandela’s contribution to the abolition of apartheid sport and unification of South Africa sport, together with his untiring efforts to unify a young non-racial, democratic nation through sport, is immeasurable. Madiba’s’ sacrifices and numerous hours given to sport, when he was needed to steer South Africa through a difficult post-democracy election era, should always have a South African sports family being eternally grateful to him.
Throughout his Presidency of the South African nation Madiba continued to support South African sport and showed up at sports events as much as his hectic schedule allowed. Madiba has received several international sports awards, had sports events named after him and held in his memory, he has autographed sports balls, did some fundraising, lit Olympic flames, met South African sports stars, including international, South African and African sports leaders, gave his support to international sports bids and celebrated South Africa’s greatest sports triumphs.
Nelson Mandela has enthralled people all over the world with his beautiful smile, proud waves, forgiving attitude, acceptance of his detractors and former oppressors and love of life, this after 27 years of life in South Africa’s maximum security prison, Robben Island.
As one of Africa’s finest leaders and a world class leader with a reconciliation and forgiveness character unrivalled by any other, we are truly blessed to have lived during the life and times of Nelson Mandela.