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'Madiba Magic'

  • Reuters, Friday, December 6, 2013 4:05 AM
From 1963 to 1992, South Africa was banned from international soccer. Nelson Mandela is celebrated as the man at the heart of South Africa's return to world competition after decades of Apartheid-enforced isolation. And, Mark Gleeson explains, he used sport as a means of reconciliation between the country's diverse racial groups.

The South African soccer team’s long undefeated streak with Mandela in the stands, and the Springboks’ rugby world championship win with Mandela attending led to the concept of 'Madiba Magic,' a play on his tribal name and the awe-inspiring effect he produced.

After the ban was lifted, Mandela, who became South Africa’s first post-Apartheid president, moved quickly to use sport to implement a nation-building policy with South Africa.

Mandela also stepped forcefully into a bitter debate over the symbols for South African teams, surprisingly siding with his former white oppressors and allowing rugby to keep using the Springbok emblem. It won for Mandela deep affection across racial lines, particularly among the Afrikaner community, at the time suspicious of what a black-led future held.

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