According to the Madiba, Nelson Mandela: “There is one regret that I have had all my life – that I never become the heavy weight boxing champion of the world.”
Nelson Mandela grew up with a love for sport. He was an ardent boxer in his younger days and used it to keep fit. Look, it is the nature of sport generally – and boxing in particular – that you will have trials and reversals.”
After Madiba’s release from Robben Island, he set out, in his own unique way, to unite a nation through sport.
Ali Bacher (Former Cricket Administrator): “He was the first person to realise the importance of sport, particularly in our divided country, of bringing black and white people together.”
1995 found the new South Africa struggling to find a way to cross the racial divide. In Sport, Rugby was predominantly supported by whites, with black South Africans rallying behind soccer.
When the Springboks played in the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Madiba saw a golden opportunity to reach out to the Afrikaner, and took it, says Ali Bacher, a former cricketer and sports administrator, “You remember 1995, the Rugby World Cup? Three weeks before the final he went public to support our rugby team wearing the Springbok jersey, to support the Springbok emblem.” But this was not an easy road to walk for Madiba.
Even in the ANC, not everyone supported the idea. Undeterred, Madiba went for a try and scored, says football administrator Danny Jordaan, CEO WC 2010 FIFA Local Organising Committee: “We sat in his house in Houghton at that time and he said, ‘Listen, first of all, tell me why you don’t want the Springbok emblem, but I think you will all agree with me that when it comes to apartheid, there is not a single one here in the room who could tell me about apartheid and the horrors of apartheid.’
And then he paused a moment, and, of course, we said nothing. And then he said, ‘Okay, fine, you agree with me, now tell me why you don’t want the Springbok, without referring to apartheid.’ Of course we had no argument.”