The old Roman Empire theory of ‘pleasing the mob' has proven true time-and-time again.
It’s been evident that sport is something so powerful that people who are in position of power often abuse it. They say mixing politics and sport is a recipe for disaster, but in the week in which the world mourns the death of Nelson Mandela (Madiba), we have seen how sport can play a part to unify people and break down barriers.
Mandela once said, “Sport has the power to change the world”, and he was right. Sport holds no prejudice. Passion, belief and emotion is what unites every fan, their common interest creates a bond in which even for only a couple of hours is truly unbreakable. In sport somebody’s age, sex, colour, beliefs or race is simply irrelevant the only thing that matters is one’s infatuation for the team.
In the afternoon of June 24, 1995, the world witnessed a black South African president who was incarcerated for 27 years hand a white rugby captain a trophy. This was the first real image to signify the end of apartheid, the sheer joy that Mandela had in his face to be able to hand the trophy to Francois Pienaar who represented the race that oppressed his people for years was a moment that was unthinkable just a few years before.
'Sport has the power to change the world,' Mandela, who died last Thursday, said in a speech in Monaco in 2000. 'It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. 'It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all kinds of discrimination.'
He understood the importance of this world cup for South Africa. He realised that it was imperative to show support for the whites in order to co-exist with them and the best way to do that is to show appreciation. Mandela stopped at nothing to support the team in 1995 and in doing so gained the trust from the white population of the country.
Sport is the most convenient avenue to find a common trait with another person/group and the way Mandela took advantage of this was imperative to the South Africa’s progression for equality after the end of apartheid. As Piennar lifted the trophy, Mandela threw his hands in the air to rejoice alongside him which many portrayed as a celebration for human rights.
Even after his presidential term, Mandela constantly pushed for sporting events for the African nation as he understood that it would consolidate the country’s progression. He saw the 2010 FIFA World Cup as a ‘perfect gift’ for South Africa to celebrate ten years of democracy and with that exposed to the world what democracy provided their country.
There are a handful of moments that you witness in life where you think, ‘Wow’, and that day in Johannesburg was one of them. The vision of that moment thirteen years ago is felt with the same sentiment today and that is due to the occasion and more importantly, the reason for it and what it truly meant.
A moment like that cannot be met with pessimism; it showed that South Africa was ready to move towards the future. Furthermore it showed forgiveness, joy, love, triumph and most importantly happiness and there is nothing else in the world that can offer this other than sport.
Rest in Peace now Mr Mandela as your Long Walk to Freedom is over. The world will always be thankful for your everlasting contribution. Thank you.
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