Daily Maverick (Johannesburg)

South Africa: Madiba Magic - Kryptonite for SA's Sporting Opponents


It's difficult to imagine how anyone could really be angry with Nelson Mandela, a man who epitomised forgiveness and reconciliation, but South Africa's sporting opponents, especially in football and rugby, in the 1990s perhaps had good reason to feel a bit miffed whenever the iconic statesman made an appearance at a game.

That's because Mandela and his "Madiba Magic" made South African sporting teams almost invincible, such was the inspirational effect he had on the sides he interacted with. Sport in this country owes the first democratically-elected president a massive amount because he chose it as one of his key tools for nation-building.

For starters, it was Mandela's permission that had enabled South African teams to return to international action well before the first democratic elections in 1994.

Bafana Bafana were one of the first teams to feel the Madiba Magic, most famously when they won the 1996 African Nations Cup on home soil.

Neil Tovey was the captain and he was just grateful that they were playing international football at all.

"We wouldn't even have been doing what we were doing if it wasn't for him? He brought us back into international sport; how could we...

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