Sports figures show their love for Mandela

2013-07-18 16:58

Sports figures around the world showed their love for Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid hero’s 95th birthday.

At the British Open, Tiger Woods talked about the unique energy Mandela exuded when they first met, while some of South Africa’s biggest sports stars proudly tweeted pictures of their own encounters with the adored former president.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter today wrote to Mandela to wish him a happy birthday and thank him for “championing” the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and Premier League club Manchester City will play a game in his honour.

“Today we remember your courageous fight against oppression and the inspirational example you set to others who are battling injustice,” Blatter wrote in his message. “May this message transmit to you all the energy, strength and goodwill of the football community as you continue your recovery from illness.”

The aging Mandela remains hospitalised for a recurring lung infection, but his birthday coincided with a statement from President Jacob Zuma, saying his health was improving.

Mandela’s unifying legacy pervades nearly all sports.

Woods, who is playing at the British Open in Scotland, said his “amazing” 1998 meeting with Mandela was an experience he would “never, ever forget” and recounted the visit with his late father to the then-South African president’s Johannesburg home.

Mandela’s inspirational appearances at the Rugby World Cup final in 1995 and football’s Africa Cup of Nations final a year later are as much a part of the country’s sporting heritage as its winning teams on those days – maybe more.

His advanced years and numerous visits to the hospital recently have left South Africans fearing for their ailing father figure, but sportsmen and sportswomen joined the opportunity to celebrate his birthday.

A list of stars paid tribute, some affectionately referring to Mandela by his clan name Madiba, others using “Tata,” which means father.

“Happy birthday #Madiba,” Bryan Habana, one of South Africa’s top rugby players, wrote on Twitter. “As a nation we salute you and keep you in our prayers!”

Habana also posted a photograph of himself and team-mates with a smiling Mandela on a previous birthday.

Olympic swimming champions Cameron van der Burgh and Kirsty Coventry, who is from Zimbabwe, former rugby captain John Smit and former cricket captain Shaun Pollock all posted messages, as did Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar, who wrote: “Big happy birthday to my hero TaTa Madiba.”

A South African football magazine put together a montage of photographs of what it called Mandela’s iconic football moments, including him grinning gleefully and holding the World Cup when South Africa won the right to host, and another with former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.

One image, from Ethiopia and at the bottom of the collection, shows a banner hoisted by local fans during a fiercely contested recent football World Cup qualifier against South Africa. Despite the intense battle on the field, the Ethiopian supporters in their striped team shirts stand in front of a huge sign that reads: “We Love Mandela!! We Will Always Be At Your Side.”

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.