Mandela hailed as uniting force

Salisbury Journal: Nelson Mandela passed away on Thursday, aged 95 Nelson Mandela passed away on Thursday, aged 95

Nelson Mandela, who created one of rugby union's iconic images at the 1995 World Cup, has been hailed for his ability to use sport to unite and inspire.

Mandela's death aged 95 at his home on Thursday sparked a wave of emotional tributes from sportsmen from South Africa and across the world.

Mandela unforgettably presented South Africa's rugby union captain Francois Pienaar with the World Cup in 1995 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg. It was the first major sporting event to be staged in South Africa after the 1994 democratic elections.

The image of Mandela, dressed in a Springbok rugby shirt and cap, handing over the Webb Ellis trophy has become one of the most iconic and evocative images in the history of sport.

South African Rugby Union chief Oregan Hoskins said in a statement: "Madiba was a true icon of inspiration and as much as South Africa owes so much to him, so does rugby.

"Through his extraordinarily vision, he was able to use the 1995 Rugby World Cup as an instrument to help promote nation building just one year after South Africa's historic first democratic election."

Joost van der Westhuizen, who played in the 1995 World Cup final, said on Twitter: "A sad day for our country. Rest in Peace Madiba. Condolences to his family and friends."

Cricket South Africa said on their official Twitter account: "RIP Tata Mandela. It is because of you that a represented Proteas team can express their talent across the globe #mandela."

South Africa's one-day international captain AB de Villiers saluted the legacy of Mandela, tweeting: "Let us now, more than ever, stick together as a nation! We owe him that much. #madiba you will be missed! #tata #inspiration #leader."

In Australia, the hosts and England wore black armbands and observed a minute's silence ahead of the second day of the second Ashes Test.

Giles Clarke, the England and Wales Cricket Board chairman, said: "Nelson Mandela was a truly inspirational statesman for many generations of South Africans as well as many peoples around the world. Under his patronage South African sports, including cricket, emerged from the dark shadow of apartheid."

FIFA president Sepp Blatter paid an emotional tribute to his "dear friend", hailing the 95-year-old's impact on the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

He said there would be a minute's silence as a mark of respect ahead of the next round of international matches

Blatter said: "It is in deep mourning that I pay my respects to an extraordinary person, probably one of the greatest humanists of our time and a dear friend of mine: Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

"He and I shared an unwavering belief in the extraordinary power of football to unite people in peace and friendship, and to teach basic social and educational values as a school of life.

"When he was honoured and cheered by the crowd at Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium on 11 July 2010, it was as a man of the people, a man of their hearts, and it was one of the most moving moments I have ever experienced. For him, the World Cup in South Africa truly was 'a dream come true'.

"Nelson Mandela will stay in our hearts forever. The memories of his remarkable fight against oppression, his incredible charisma and his positive values will live on in us and with us."

Cricket South Africa president Chris Nenzani dedicated the Proteas' ongoing series against India to Mandela.

He said: "Mandela played a pivotal role in the liberation of the people of our country from the injustices of the apartheid system. A democratic South Africa owes its success to Mandela and that great generation of leaders who were his peers.

"The sporting world will remember him for his tireless efforts at uniting the various sporting codes in order to create a proud and united South African sporting front.

"CSA joins people all over the world in wishing the Mandela family peace and comfort during this difficult time. His life must teach us to be of service to those who are in less fortunate positions than us.

"In doing so we shall have paid an eternal tribute to this great man."

He added: "Nothing assuredly gave him greater pleasure than being part of the team that brought the FIFA World Cup to South Africa in 2010 and seeing what a wonderful celebration of sport, comradeship and humanity the tournament was.

"CSA dedicates the current series against the Indian team to the memory of Mandela."

South African golfer Ernie Els said: "It is a very sad day. A very sad day for South Africa and the world really. We have lost one of the iconic leaders of our time.

"You cannot say anything bad about the man. He fought for what he believed in, went to prison for so many years and came out to lead our country up until now.

"He was the father of our country and our continent. It's just very sad that he had to go.

"He was 95 and led a full life but a lot of that wasn't spent on what he was so good at because he was away for so many years."

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