As the world celebrates Mandela Day in commemoration of the iconic statesman – Nelson Mandela, who was born on this day in 1918, FARPost goes down memory lane to look at Madiba’s influence and inspiration on the beautiful game.
South African sports teams have often cited Madiba Magic to their success in international tournaments. Certain football players have had the privilege of enjoying close relations with the larger than life figure. Below we list 10 Things on Madiba and Football.
- Bafana Bafana’s Afcon Triumph
Prior to Bafana Bafana winning the Afcon in 1996, Mandela used to pay regular visits to their camp at Sunnyside Hotel in Parktown, Johannesburg. Bafana coach Clive Barker and his players, have spoken fondly about how Madiba inspired them to victory. Remarkably Mandela, who would personally interact with individual players, would always remember details about individual players whenever he meets them.
- Neil Tovey
The picture of Neil Tovey hoisting aloft the Africa Cup of Nations trophy alongside a jubilant Nelson Mandela, in 1996, is arguably the most prominent picture in South African football. It’s a picture that means a lot not only to Tovey, the former Bafana captain, but also the rest of the country. The picture’s symbolism goes beyond just winning the football tournament. It is even the cover picture on Tovey’s autobiography – A Captain’s Journey.
- Brian Baloyi
In 1998, Brian Baloyi was in the form of his life forcing all and sundry to take note. Then President of South Africa wrote Baloyi a letter praising and encouraging the Kaizer Chiefs and Bafana keeper to keep soaring. “Sometimes, when Madiba came to Bafana Bafana camp, he would ask: “Where’s Brian Baloyi? It was such a great honour,” Baloyi once told me.
- Shaun Bartlett
The former Bafana striker had the honour of Mandela inviting himself to his wedding in Cape Town in 1997. Initially Mandela was not invited to Bartlett’s wedding but one of his granddaughters, a friend of Bartlett, informed then President of South Africa about the wedding. Mandela was not pleased by Bartlett’s snub. Mandela then made arrangements to be at the wedding, which he arrived 15 minutes before time. The logistics, in terms of security, were nightmarish due to Mandela’s stature but what a dream for Bartlett and his wife.
- Lucas Radebe
In 2002, Mandela visited Leeds, a city where former Leeds United and Bafana captain Lucas Radebe is a colossal and cult figure. The iconic statesman, when asked about Radebe, said: “This is my hero!” Talk about real recognizing real.
- 2010 World Cup Bid
President Mandela played a pivotal role in ensuring that South Africa gets the right to host the first ever Fifa World Cup on African soil. The bid committee in South Africa needed some Madiba Magic to sway and tilt the scales in the favour of South Arica and it worked wonders.
- Mandela National Stadium
In Uganda, the country’s major stadium, where a Dennis Onyango-led national team plays home matches, is named after the first democratically elected President of South Africa. The Mandela National Stadium, a multipurpose sports arena, was opened in 1997 and South African reggae legend Lucky Dube had the honour of opening the facility with a concert. In PE, the 2010 World Cup venue – Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium is named after the legend born in the same province. In the same city, the municipality and the university is named after them man born in Mvezo.
- Nelson Mandela The Footballer
There’s a Cameroonian player named Nelson Mandela Mbouhom. The player, who was born in 1999, when Mandela relinquished his presidency, was once on the books of Barcelona’s famed academy – La Masia. He is currently on the books of German club – Sportfreunde Lotte.
- Jomo Sono
Sono’s closeness can be attributed to either divine design or fate (or coincidence). Sono was born a day before Mandela. And the Black Prince lives a stone’s throw away from Nelson Mandela’s house in the lofty Johannesburg suburb – Houghton. Sono revealed that in 2002, Mandela was instrumental in ensuring and persuading Safa to have him lead Bafana Bafana at the World Cup in Korea/Japan.
- International Appeal
Mandela is revered the world over. Big football stars – Pele among them, have revealed how Mandela inspired them to persevere in their own struggles. Pele, arguably the best player of his generation, was close to Mandela. Former Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany has stated his admiration for Mandela and how the former ANC President was his role model. Ironically Kompany’s erstwhile teammate Bernardo Silva described Kompany as ‘Nelson Mandela’ in City’s documentary – All or Nothing.
By Hosea Ramphekwa