17 July 2013
Golfing great Tiger Woods on Tuesday recalled meeting with then South African President Nelson Mandela in 1998, saying: “That’s an experience that I will never, ever forget.”
Speaking to journalists at Muirfield ahead of the British Open, which tees off on Thursday, Woods said: “I went down there to play Sun City, and he invited us to his home [in Johannesburg], and my father and I went to have lunch with him. It still gives me chills to this day, thinking about it.”
What struck him most, Woods revealed, was Mandela’s aura. “We walked in the room and my dad and I were just kind of looking around. And I said, ‘Dad, do you feel that?’ And he says, ‘Yeah, it feels different in this room.’ And it was just like a different energy in the room.
“And maybe, I’m guessing probably 30 seconds later, I heard some movement behind me and it was President Mandela folding up the paper. And it was pretty amazing.
“The energy that he has, that he exudes, is unlike any person I’ve ever met. And it was an honour to meet him at his home.”
‘Unlike any person I’ve ever met’
Nelson Mandela turns 95 on Thursday. He became South Africa’s first democratically elected president in 1994, having been released from prison on 11 February 1990.
“To be able to be incarcerated for that long and come out and run a country with humbleness and humility. Just the aura that he exudes, unlike any person, as I said, I’ve ever met,” Woods commented on Tuesday.
“He impacted the world, not just for his generations, but for future generations to come, just the way he handled everything. And that takes a very special person.”
Mandela has shown his love of sport throughout his life, and sport is set to reciprocate that love with a number of events to celebrate the icon.
Nelson Mandela Day Football Invitational
On Thursday, Mandela’s birthday, English Premiership club Manchester City face South African Premier Soccer League club AmaZulu at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban in the Nelson Mandela Day Football Invitational. Kick-off is at 20:00.
In 2009, the United Nations officially declared the 18th of July Nelson Mandela International Day (or Mandela Day). In memory of his 67 years of fighting for social justice, Mandela Day calls on people to give up 67 minutes of their day to “fight poverty and promote peace and reconciliation”.
AmaZulu fans have been urged to buy tickets and also to sign a Madiba birthday card. The giant card, which tour promoters Matchworld want to get into the Guinness Book of Records, is on display in Durban.
The aim is to have 10 000 signatures on it. The current world record for the most number of signatures on a birthday card is 5 339 for actor Robert Downey junior.
Two other major sporting events are coming up in August to celebrate Mandela, involving the South African national rugby team, the Springboks, and the national football team, Bafana Bafana.
The Springboks won the 1995 IRB Rugby World Cup with Mandela as the team’s most famous supporter, and that was followed by Bafana Bafana winning the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996, with Mandela once again showing his strong support.
On Wednesday, 14 August, Bafana Bafana will face Africa Cup of Nations winners Nigeria at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in the annual Nelson Mandela Challenge.
The Nelson Mandela Sport and Culture Day
Then, on Saturday, 17 August, the Springboks and Bafana will both play international matches at the FNB Stadium in Soweto to celebrate the former President in the Nelson Mandela Sport and Culture Day.
Bafana Bafana will take on Africa Cup of Nations runners-up Burkina Faso in a friendly, with that match being followed by the Springboks’ opening match of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship against Argentina.
Tickets for both events are on sale and available from Computicket.