This post is a tribute to the former South African president, whose visionary leadership inspired the world.

There are many things we could write in testament to Nelson Mandela’s courageous character. However, we have chosen to highlight his use of sport as a uniting force. Speaking on the subject, he once said: “Sport can create hope where once there was only despair, it’s more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers.”

In 1995, during the Rugby World Cup final, which was hosted in South Africa, those words proved to be true. As Mandela stepped out onto the field to hand the trophy to François Peinaar, captain of the South African team, his name could be heard echoing across the stadium.

It was a bold move – but ultimately a successful one. Wearing Peinaar’s Springbok shirt, his statement of unity was broadcast around the world within seconds. Up until this historic day, the green shirt had been symbolic of the differences that had ripped South Africa apart during apartheid. To the black population of South Africa, this shirt represented an enemy; rugby had always been a sport reserved for whites in the country. Yet those few moments on the pitch changed the course of sporting history forever.

Mandela had achieved the impossible – against all odds he united black and white rugby fans in South Africa for the first time. So it was only fitting that his last public appearance should be at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where his presence once again reminded the world that sport has the ability to transcend and heal racial divides.

Image credits: Toniflap

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