Jul 18, 2012, 5:00 PM EDT
Nelson Mandela turns 94 today, with the world taking time to reflect on the contributions of one of this era’s political icons. While the former president of South Africa celebrated quietly with his family, his nation engages in a day of service, honoring his sacrifices. Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison as part of his role fighting the country’s apartheid regime, spent the day at home in Qunu, a village on South Africa’s eastern shore.
I wasn’t even in high school when Mandel was released in 1990. He was more myth than man for a 13-year-old yet to realize a true political consciousness. Now 22 years later, it occurs to me: I never had any real context on Mandela’s significance. Where it not for occasions like today’s – time taken to remind people like me of Mandela’s sacrifices – he could Alexander the Great, Paul Revere, or Che Guevara, even if his life overlapped with my own.
Lira, a recording star in South Africa, helps remind people like me of Madiba’s life-changing contributions:
The rest of the world knows him as Nelson Mandela. We, as South Africans, choose to call him Madiba, his Xhosa clan name. Since I was a young girl growing up in the Daveyton township in Johannesburg’s East Rand, Madiba has always been my hero.
Madiba was our hope for a change, for a better way of life. He spent almost half his life in darkness so that we could be brought into the light. When that tearful and joyful day came on the 11th of February in 1990, we were able to witness this amazing revolutionary reemerge in freedom, from where he had entered in chains. His glorious emancipation marked our own. The excitement among the people was electrifying! A new era had dawned and you could feel the anticipation in the streets.
Soccer is a small, probably insignificant part of Mandela’s story, but Mandela is an important part of soccer’s. The fabled games on Robben Island were said to draw his attention from the prison’s isolation, and when he was released (and eventually became his country’s first democratically elected president), the sport helped empower a reborn nation.
Without doubt, my best Mandela moment in football took place on July 12, 1994. That was the day he was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected president.
It was also matchday at Ellis Park, where Bafana Bafana were playing host to a powerful Zambia, in Clive Barker’s second match in charge.
The stadium was crammed beyond capacity with 60 000 people eager to enjoy ‘Mandela Day’.
The action was end-to-end and the atmosphere pulsating, but at half-time the match was scoreless. But this was the cue for the big moment as Madiba arrived by helicopter, direct from the inauguration ceremony at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
South Africa would go on to win the match, 2-1.
There have been other happy Madiba moments, like seeing him hand the Nations Cup trophy to Neil Tovey on February 3, 1996 and being present in Zurich in May 2004 to hear Fifa president Sepp Blatter announce South Africa as World Cup 2010 hosts.
But not even that beats that afternoon in May ’94, Mseleku’s bearhug notwithstanding. I can hear the crowds’ massed chants today, as if the late Sizwe Motaung was still overlapping down the right: “Sizwe, Sizwe, Sizwe!”
Yes, that day marked the rise of Bafana Bafana and the rebirth of our nation. Unforgettable.
I’d like to wish Nelson Mandela happy birthday, but he doesn’t read this blog. Instead, I’d like to thank those who reminded me of Mandela’s contributions. Some of you will read this. Congratulations on coming together to honor a revolutionary.
May 25, 2013, 9:30 PM EDT
Borussia Dortmund fell just short in this season’s Champions League final to Bayern Munich, something they’ve heard all too much in the recent months. But the pain of the loss may be felt the most knowing that the chance to hoist that trophy may not come again for a long time. The rigor of a…
May 25, 2013, 9:25 PM EDT
The club lost. Again. This team is awful. So … where are the big changes?
May 25, 2013, 8:50 PM EDT
Chelsea lost to Manchester City 5-3 for the sweep in the pair’s double dip in the United States.
May 25, 2013, 8:29 PM EDT
One of Major League Soccer’s hottest young strikers scores for the third consecutive match:
May 25, 2013, 8:27 PM EDT
It’s official: the Robbie Rogers’s return to soccer is nearly complete.
May 25, 2013, 7:19 PM EDT
Outgoing Bayern Munich manager Jupp Heynckes hinted at Borussia Dortmund sensation Robert Lewandowski’s probable switch to Bayern after the Champions League final.
May 25, 2013, 6:50 PM EDT
Bayern Munich defeated Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the Champions League final at Wembley Stadium in London. The postmatch reactions pretty much cover it all.
May 25, 2013, 6:20 PM EDT
Manchester City and Chelsea are handing starts to four youngsters who are looking to make their breakthroughs.
May 25, 2013, 5:52 PM EDT
The 2013 Champions League final was incredibly exciting, and passed every test as a match that will live on in the memory of fans.
May 25, 2013, 5:25 PM EDT
How a wonderfully entertaining UEFA Champions League final played out:
May 25, 2013, 4:59 PM EDT
Arjen Robben, criticized by many for his woeful record in major finals, finally got over the hump in stunning fashion as his 89th minute winner sent Bayern Munich to the promised land.
May 25, 2013, 2:45 PM EDT
There have been two to make the semis; You know who they are?
May 25, 2013, 1:48 PM EDT
Looking back at his ground-breaking announcement, even Robbie Rogers is a little confused about why it was all such a big deal:
May 25, 2013, 12:44 PM EDT
The most recent reports say it’s Barcelona FC, as the Catalan giants have apparently beaten Spanish rival Real Madrid for the Brazilian star’s services:
May 25, 2013, 12:20 PM EDT
Looking at the weekend MLS schedule and wondering if we’ll see one of these two on the field?
May 25, 2013, 11:40 AM EDT
Something to like from the Galaxy side – but one big concern, too:
May 25, 2013, 10:45 AM EDT
Despite the Chicago Fire’s awful record through 12 MLS rounds, there’s still enough to like about Frank Klopas’ club.
May 25, 2013, 12:32 AM EDT
Santos confirmed that they have accepted two offers for Brazilian sensation Neymar.
May 24, 2013, 9:29 PM EDT
In a mind-blowing move, USA Today have reported the LA Galaxy have sent a player to the Chicago Fire in exchange for the rights to Robbie Rogers.
May 24, 2013, 7:00 PM EDT
With a victory in the Champions League final to complete Bayern Munich’s domination domestically and abroad plus their offseason acquisitions, would they be a force for years to come?
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