Playing the Enemy

Playing the Enemy

Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made A Nation

Book - 2008
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A thrilling, inspiring account of one of the greatest charm offensives in historyaNelson Mandelaas decade-long campaign to unite his country, beginning in his jail cell and ending with a rugby tournament In 1985, Nelson Mandela, then in prison for twenty-three years, set about winning over the fiercest proponents of apartheid, from his jailers to the head of South Africaas military. First he earned his freedom and then he won the presidency in the nationas first free election in 1994. But he knew that South Africa was still dangerously divided by almost fifty years of apartheid. If he couldnat unite his country in a visceral, emotional wayaand fastait would collapse into chaos. He would need all the charisma and strategic acumen he had honed during half a century of activism, and head need a cause all South Africans could share. Mandela picked one of the more farfetched causes imaginableathe national rugby team, the Springboks, who would host the sportas World Cup in 1995. Against the giants of the sport, the Springboksa chances of victory were remote. But their chances of capturing the hearts of most South Africans seemed remoter still, as they had long been the embodiment of white supremacist rule. During apartheid, the all-white Springboks and their fans had belted out racist fight songs, and blacks would come to Springbok matches to cheer for whatever team was playing against them. Yet Mandela believed that the Springboks could embodyaand engageathe new South Africa. And the Springboks themselves embraced the scheme. Soon South African TV would carry images of the team singing aNkosi Sikelele Afrika, a the longtime anthem of black resistance to apartheid. As theirsurprising string of victories lengthened, their home-field advantage grew exponentially. South Africans of every color and political stripe found themselves falling for the team. When the Springboks took to the field for the championship match against New Zealandas heavily favored squad, Mandela sat in his presidential box wearing a Springbok jersey while sixty-two-thousand fans, mostly white, chanted aNelson Nelson a Millions more gathered around their TV sets, whether in dusty black townships or leafy white suburbs, to urge their team toward victory. The Springboks won a nail-biter that day, defying the oddsmakers and capping Mandelaas miraculous ten-year-long effort to bring forty-three million South Africans together in an enduring bond. John Carlin, a former South Africa bureau chief for the London Independent, offers a singular portrait of the greatest statesman of our time in action, blending the volatile cocktail of race, sport, and politics to intoxicating effect. He draws on extensive interviews with Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and dozens of other South Africans caught up in Mandelaas momentous campaign, and the Springboksa unlikely triumph. As he makes stirringly clear, their championship transcended the mere thrill of victory to erase ancient hatreds and make a nation whole.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, c2008
ISBN: 9781594201745
Branch Call Number: 968.065 CAR
Characteristics: 274 p. : ill. ; 24 cm


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Oct 01, 2019

Invictus – ‘Nelson Mandela And The Game That Made A Nation’ was previously published as 'Playing The Enemy.'
As a previous reviewer points out, perhaps sixty percent of this book reviews Mandela's overall life: his views, his survival instincts, events leading up to his time in prison, and his time in prison but in particular the late period of incarceration when the South African Government had concluded that Apartheid had to end. Government officials had started to take a measure of Mandela to see if they could work with him and bring about a change in South Africa, one they could sell to the Afrikaner mentality, while securing their way of life and livelihood, and become a nation the world could accept. The second half of this book was more in tune with the movie Invictus.
The atrocities that were committed on the original population of South Africa and the injustice of the government were described in detail in this book. Another movie, 'Cry Freedom,' basically the Stephen Biko story ‎also comes to mind. A young Denzel Washington plays Stephen Biko in this exceptional movie.
‎It was enlightening to have the opportunity to get to know more about certainly one of the greatest human beings of the last Century. A man that history must admire as many admire Mahatma Gandhi of India. I quote from page 256: It took a rare wisdom for Mandela to say to his people, as he paraphrased it for the author in an interview, "I understand your anger. But if you are building a new South Africa you ought to be prepared to work with people you don't like."
As Mandela would recite in his years in captivity, "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul," - William Earnest Benley 1849-1903.
I thoroughly enjoyed the movie Invictus ‎starring Morgan Freeman as Mandela and Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, Captain of the rugby team the Springbok. Both actors were at the top of their game.
While this book is certainly not as entertaining as the exceptional movie ‘Invictus,’ it is very informative and worth the read by those who want to know more about this truly exceptional man. Recommended by Senior Doctor-at-Bass ‎Fishing, D.A.

FW_librarian Jun 19, 2015

I knew Mandela was a remarkable and charismatic leader; this book explains how he brought two extremely opposing ideals together by having enough character to focus on the ultimate goal and do anything, anything to attain it with minimal hate and violence. It's about respect for all human kind including those who fear for their security and their place in society (community and global).

Jul 07, 2012

I read this after seeing the movie and it filled in the story, much more historical details than in the movie. I enjoyed it. The sports part is really only the last half of the book.

Jul 04, 2011

Playing the Enemy by John Carlin documents the strategy of Nelson Mandela to unite South Africa's blacks and whites behind the country's primarily Afrikaan's rugby team, the Springboks. It is a delightful and engrossing read of historical significance and a great deal of local atmosphere.
In close proximity to Afrikaans prison guards for many years, Mandela taught himself their language and made many friendships. Freed from prison and elected President of South Africa he turned this personal experience into an asset as a Springbok fan, cajoling black South Africans to join him. "One team, one nation" became the slogan and the green cap and jersey a powerful message of previously unthinkable attitudinal change.
Chapters about the change process in the team members themselves are particularly heartening. If it can happen in South Africa, there is hope for us all.

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