How Madiba's phone call helped turn around James Small's life

James Small (Gallo Images)
James Small (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - A heart-warming story about how a phone call from Nelson Mandela helped Springbok rugby star James Small turn his life around has made headlines on social media.

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The rugby fraternity was shocked on Wednesday when news broke that Small had died of a heart attack at the age of 50.

'Oom Rugby', a popular twitter persona, shared a story of how the former President had phoned Small after a suicide attempt in 2009.

Mandela, an iconic figure during the Springboks' 1995 World Cup triumph at Ellis Park, encouraged Small by assuring him that life was worth living.

The conversation is believed to have helped turn Small's life around.

Zelda la Grange, Mandela's former private secretary, confirmed on Twitter that the conversation took place.

The story reads as follows:

Here is a story that James Small told me just after he had the suicide attempt in 2009.

He went to stay at his mother’s home to get away from the media and the glaring. Nobody could get hold of him, and most people did not even know where he was.

Then the phone rang, and his mother answered it.

The person on the other side of the line said it was the office of the President, and Mr Mandela wanted to talk to James. James didn’t believe this, so he told his mother to put the phone down.

Then the phone rang again, and the same person said that the President wanted to talk to James.

So James got on the line suspiciously, and then the President said to him, 'Hi James, how are you?'

James could not believe that someone knew where he was so he still did not believe it was him, but after a minute he quickly realised that it was Mr Mandela on the phone.

The President wanted to know if James is okay and what was going on. James was going through a few things in his life, but a big issue he admitted was to be away from the game and the spotlight , and he was not sure of his identity.

The President listened to him, and then he said something along the line of - 'I know what it feels like if you think people has forgotten about you. I went through it as well in my time in prison'.

In that moment James said he swallowed hard and got a instant perspective. How big is his problems really?

Mr Mandela said: 'James you still have a big role to play and even a responsibility. You are from the class of '95, and even if you think people has forgotten about you, they have not. You still have much to give and you are still a hero to many. That is your identity.

James said it was the moment that change his life. The fact that Mr Mandela bothered to have concern about him, and then somehow get his people to track him down... and then to deliver such a perspective... A guy who went through much much worse.

That is when James stood up again.

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