Sports Portrait Of Nelson Mandela – South Africa’s Loyal Sports Fan By Cheryl Roberts

6 Dec


For all his interest in and support of South African sport, South Africa’s first president of a non-racial, democratic country, 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.

Madiba’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. Mandela’s sacrifices and numerous hours given to sport, when he was needed to steer South Africa through a difficult post-democracy election era, will always have an entire South African sports family being eternally grateful to him.

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.

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 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.

Nelson Mandela 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.

Madiba always had an interest in sport. He participated in boxing as a young adult man, enjoyed gym activity well into his retirement years and has enjoyed watching sports events. But most importantly, he enjoyed celebrating with his beloved South African teams such as the 1995 Springbok World Cup Victory, 1996 Bafana Bafana African Cup of Nations victory. The Proteas cricket victories and South Africa’s successful 2010 Bid.

He also met several South African sports teams and elite sportspeople as well as international sportspersons and teams and sports legends.

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. And whenever he has an opportunity to address a sports function he comments on the nation-building role of sport and the people who have contributed to the new sports milieu.

Mandela was always a sports participant and enthusiast. His chosen sport was boxing. Mandela recognised and supported all sports which involve his beloved South Africa. He was a model citizen for our country, encouraging us to pursue recreational activity and attain positive benefits from such participation. In his lifetime, Mandela 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 believed 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. Mandela said his daily physical exercise programme, during his imprisoned years, played a significant part in keeping him sane and mentally alert.

Throughout his Presidency of the Republic of South Africa, Madiba supported South African sport and appeared at sports events as much as his hectic schedule allowed. Madiba 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.

In 1996 Madiba celebrated a great South African sports victory where, together with former president FW de Klerk and King Goodwill Zwelithini, they shared in the post-match celebrations with South African footballers after they won the 1996 African Cup of Nations. And then it was left to SA captain Neil Tovey to declare: “We are the champions”, with Mandela cheering uncontrollably.

Bafana Bafana, the Springboks and the national cricket team enjoyed unconditional support from their no.1 fan, Nelson Mandela. Even when unable to visit them personally or be present for an international fixture, Madiba has kept in touch with the teams by sending them messages of support.

And despite not being in good health to travel abroad, and against doctor’s orders, Madiba traveled to Zurich, Switzerland in May 2003 to celebrate South Africa’s successful 2010 Bid. Image

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