World of sport pays tribute to Mandela

6 December 2013

The global sporting community was united in expressing its respect and love for Nelson Mandela after his passing on Thursday, with sports administrators and personalities from Gary Player to Tiger Woods paying tribute to a man who was able to harness the power of sport to bring people together.

Mandela’s love of sport was well known, and some of the most iconic images of the renowned stateman involved sport: Mandela presenting the Rugby World Cup to Francois Pienaar in the 1995 while wearing Pienaar’s number six jersey; Mandela smiling alongside Neil Tovey as Tovey raised the Africa Cup of Nations trophy in 1996; Mandela raising the Fifa World Cup trophy in joy after South Africa won the right to host the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

‘A true icon’

“Madiba was a true icon of inspiration and as much as South Africa owes so much to him, so does rugby,” South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins said in a statement on Friday. “Through his extraordinarily vision, he was able to use the 1995 Rugby World Cup as an instrument to help promote nation-building just one year after South Africa’s historic first democratic election.

“Mr Mandela was also instrumental in retaining the Springbok as the emblem for our national team at a time when a chorus of voices advocated a change of the symbol, for various reasons,” Hoskins said. “It was an act of reconciliation and generosity of spirit which no one could have expected.”

‘Catalyst’ for SA’s 2010 bid

South African Football Association president Danny Jordaan said Mandela “was responsible for lifting the spirits of our football nation … to victory at the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations,” adding that he had “served as the catalyst in our bid for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.”

Fifa president Sepp Blatter recalled: “When Mandela was honoured and cheered by the crowd at Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium on 11 July 2010, it was as a man of the people, a man of their hearts, and it was one of the most moving moments I have ever experienced. For him, the World Cup in South Africa truly was ‘a dream come true’.

“Nelson Mandela will stay in our hearts forever,” Blatter said. “The memories of his remarkable fight against oppression, his incredible charisma and his positive values will live on in us and with us.

“As a mark of respect and mourning, the flags of the 209 member associations at the Home of Fifa will be flown at half-mast and there will be a minute’s silence before the next round of international matches.”

‘Incredible impact’

Cricket South Africa president Chris Nenzani said Mandela’s love for sport “and his appreciation of what it could do to unify the country is legendary. He was a keen amateur boxer in his youth, but he loved all sporting codes across the board, and in it he saw the foundations for a healthy future for all the youth of the country.”

International Rugby Board chairman Bernard Lapasset said Mandela “was a truly remarkable man. I was honoured to be with him during the historic days of Rugby World Cup 1995 and saw his incredible impact on his nation and his people. His wisdom, intelligence and sheer presence was a wonder to behold.

“I am so proud that the rugby family could play its small part in supporting Mr Mandela’s efforts to establish the new South Africa, and that our tournament came to symbolise the emergence of a new nation,” Lapasset said. “He changed the world, and we were privileged to witness and embrace his work.”

‘Unwavering dedication’

Former Proteas wicketkeeper and current CEO of the International Cricket Council, Dave Richardson, said Mandela “was celebrated for his unwavering dedication to human rights, equality and respect. He was and will forever remain a true hero.”

South African golfing legend Gary Player wrote on Twitter: “Nelson Mandela’s courage, forgiveness, love & hope inspired people around the world. He made me want to be a better man. RIP Tata.”

Golfer Tiger Woods tweeted: “Pop & I felt your aura when we met, I feel it today & I will feel it forever. You have done so much for humanity. You will always be in my heart Mr. Mandela.”

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson said: “Nelson Mandela was the embodiment of discipline, courage, love and forgiveness. There is no future without forgiveness”.

‘Unwavering love’

Lennox Lewis, also an undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion, stated: “He lived a life of example through his dedication, commitment and unwavering love, not only for his brothers and sisters in South Africa, but for the entire human race.

“He will forever remain THE blueprint of strength, grace and dignity, in both, the face of oppression and the privilege of power. I have very rarely, if ever, witnessed strength and compassion on his level. His legacy will continue to help shape the world for many generations to come.”

‘How you can help people’

Serena Williams, a winner of 32 Grand Slam titles and the number one women’s tennis player in the world, commented: “Nelson Mandela led one if the most impactful lives of our time. Meeting him helped me to understand life is full of ups and downs. But how you recover from the downs and how you can help people no matter what race or background by your choices and decisions.

“One life – Nelson Mandela’s life changed many. May his legacy live forever. Rev 21:4.”

Former Springbok rugby captain John Smit shared: “A day we knew was coming but hoped never would, a man we didn’t have for long enough but left a lifelong legacy. Madiba we will never forget.”