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Sport mourns 'miracle' man Mandela

Last updated on: December 06, 2013 18:54 IST

Sport mourns 'miracle' man Mandela

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South African rugby paid tribute to the ‘miracle’ performed by Nelson Mandela in uniting his country, partly through his embrace of the Springbok rugby team at the 1995 World Cup, after the death of the former president on Thursday.

-Hero of South Africa Nelson Mandela dies at 95

Tributes poured in from across the sporting world for Mandela, who died at the age of 95, including from the International Olympic Committee, soccer's governing body FIFA and a moving valediction from boxing great Muhammad Ali.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Mandela won over many whites when he donned the jersey of South Africa's national rugby team - once a symbol of white supremacy - at the rugby World Cup final in Johannesburg's Ellis Park stadium.


Image: A racegoer dons a Nelson Mandela-inspired dress and hat while participating in a fashion competition
Photographs: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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"All of our lives are poorer today at the extinguishing of the great beacon of light and hope that led the way for our country through the transition to democracy," Oregan Hoskins, President of the South African Rugby Union, said in a statement.

"Madiba was a great man of vision, determination and integrity who performed a miracle that amazed the world as much as it amazed his fellow countrymen.

"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.

"Mr Mandela was also instrumental in retaining the Springbok as the emblem for our national team at a time when a chorus of voices advocated a change of the symbol, for various reasons. It was an act of reconciliation and generosity of spirit which no one could have expected."


Image: The peloton waits behind a large picture commemorating the birthday of former South African President Nelson Mandela
Photographs: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

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Ali said he was "deeply saddened" by the death of a man who inspired everyone to break barriers and reach for the impossible.

"He made us realise, we are our brother's keeper and that our brothers come in all colors," he said.

"He taught us forgiveness on a grand scale. His was a spirit born free, destined to soar above the rainbows. Today his spirit is soaring through the heavens. He is now forever free."


Image: Players carry a birthday banner for Mandela during the Nelson Mandela Football Invitational match
Photographs: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Tags: Ali , Mandela

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As news of Mandela's death went around the world, the first of what are likely to be many gestures of respect took place at sporting events.

A minute's silence was observed before the start of the second day of the second Ashes Test between Australia and England at Adelaide Oval and at the first test between New Zealand and West Indies in Dunedin.

International Cricket Council President Alan Issac said: "Nelson Mandela was a towering symbol of resistance, a leader, an activist, and a man who recognised the power of sport to inspire and bring people together. Mr Mandela never compromised his principles and his beliefs in justice and equality. As South Africa's first black President, Mr Mandela recognised and utilised sport as a mechanism to unite the divided people of South Africa and create a shared national identity and pride. As a statesman, he was remarkable, and as a man, he was inspirational."


Image: England observe a minutes silence in memory of former South African President Nelson Mandela ahead of day two of the Second Ashes Test
Photographs: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

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Indian cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar paid heartfelt tribute to former South Africa president Nelson Mandela on Friday, saying the anti-apartheid icon was a "truly inspirational human being".

"When I met Mr Mandela it was one of the most memorable days of my life. A truly inspirational human being....," wrote Tendulkar on his Twitter account.

"He will live on in my heart forever. R.I.P," he further wrote. 


Image: South African President Nelson Mandela (centre) is introduced to Mohammad Azharudin (left) by the Indian captain Sachin Tendulkar (right) on January 4, 1997 at the Newlands cricket ground
Photographs: Reuters

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IOC President Thomas Bach hailed Mandela's role in using sport for the greater cause and called him a "true statesman".

"A remarkable man who understood that sport could build bridges, break down walls, and reveal our common humanity," Bach said in a message posted on the IOC's official Twitter handle.

World No 1 golfer Tiger Woods also paid tribute to Mandela and recalled meeting the former South African president in 1998.

"Pop and I felt your aura when we met you. I feel it today and I will feel it forever. You have done so much for humanity," said Woods.

"He invited us to his home, and it was one of the most inspiring times I've ever had in my life," added the American.


Image: Safa president Kirsten Nematandani lays flower during the launch event of the Nelson Mandela Sports Day
Photographs: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images/Getty Images

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World soccer body FIFA ordered flags to be flown at half mast and a minute's silence to be held before the next round of international matches.

Mandela's last major appearance on the global stage came at soccer's 2010 World Cup finals, the first to be hosted on African soil, when he attended the final in Soweto to a thunderous ovation from the 90,000 strong crowd.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, in Brazil for Friday's draw for the 2014 World Cup, paid tribute in a statement.

"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," said the Swiss.

"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."


Image: Former South African President Nelson Mandela holds the World Cup Trophy after FIFA President Joseph Blatter announced that South Africa is chosen to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup
Photographs: ndreas Meier/Reuters

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"It is a very sad day. 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 just the most amazing person I have ever met. Today will be tough," said South Africa golfer Ernie Els.

"Nelson Mandela's courage, forgiveness, love and hope inspired people around the world. He made me want to be a better man", said Golfing great Gary Player. 

Also among those paying his respects was world and Olympic athletic champion Usain Bolt.

"One of the greatest human beings ever. May your soul Rest in Peace... the world's greatest fighter," the Jamaican sprinter said.


Image: Ernie Els and President Nelson Mandela of South Africa share a laugh as Mandela shows a sketching of Els to the crowd before the final round of the Alfred Dunhill South African PGA Championship at Houghton Golf Club, Johannesburg, South Africa in February 1996
Photographs: Allsport UK/Allsport/Getty Images

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Leading the tributes from footballers, old and new, was Brazil legend Pele.

"Let us all continue his legacy with purpose and passion", said the soccer great.

Former England soccer captain David Beckham, who met Mandela when the team played a friendly in South Africa in 2003, said: "We have lost a true gentleman and a courageous human being."

"Thankful Madiba for your legacy and your example. You'll always stay with us," Real Madrid and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo said.

Former England striker Gary Linekar said, "The greatest man on the planet has died. RIP Nelson Mandela.”

Brian Lara also expressed his views about Mandela.

"You will forever be remembered for your indomitable spirit, incomparable honour and courage" – said the West Indies cricket great.


Image: President Nelson Mandela (left) and the world's most famous footballer Pele smile for photographers at Union Buildings in March 1995
Photographs: Reuters

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