Invictus or Playing the Enemy as it was originally published by John Carlin, is the story of Nelson Mandela and South Africa. The story is told by Carlin who himself met with Mandela and had Mandela's full support to write his story. The story begins when Mandela was imprisoned as a key political figure of the ANC, the African National Congress. At the time South Africa was under apartheid, a system of legal segregation, by the National Party. Mandela and other ANC officials were being imprisoned for fighting apartheid and a white controlled government. From the beginning, Mandela was able to win over Afrikaner jailers with his personal charm, manners, and charisma. He realized what he wanted to accomplish could not be won on the battlefield so he wanted to do it peacefully by winning over National Party officials. Mandela realized that rugby was seen as a religion to the white man and learned all he could about the sport. He used rugby as a way to open a conversation with a prison warden or a government official. Negotations held in secret between Mandela and President P.W. Bortha started in the 1980's to allow Mandela's release. Mandela was later released and began his road to the presidency. If Mandela were to win the presidency many Afrikaners said they would call for a separate white state. Mandela knew they must be brought to his side or a civil war was very possible. Mandela met with Constand Vilijoen, leader of the separatists, and convinced him that the Afrikaners had a future in South Africa. Mandela won the presidency but many began to doubt the ability of the new president to bring together the country. Mandela put all his faith into the Springbok rugby team as a way to unite the country under the slogan,"One Team, One Nation"(172). South Africa was hosting the World Cup and Mandela told blacks and whites to back their countries rugby team. Rugby had been a white man's sport but now Mandela was showing how his nation could bond together in the love of sport. He said,"Let us use sport for the purpose of nation-building and promoting all the ideas which we think will lead to peace and stability in our country"(163). The Springbok's led by Francois Piennar faced all odds and made it to the championship against a heavily favored New Zealand team. The fate of the nation relied on this game. A win would mean success for South Africa, but a loss would result in Mandela's failure to unite the country.
- Nelson Mandela believed sport has the ability to change the world. He said it has the power to inspire and unite people that nothing else does. Do you agree with Mandela and can you think of any present day examples?
- Do you believe that there are certain people like Mandela who are just born with the ability to lead and inspire others.