Mandela knew the power of sport

Mandela knew the power of sport
Former South African President Nelson Mandela waves to the crowd at Football City stadium during the closing ceremony for the 2010 World Cup in Johannesburg, in this July 11, 2010 file photo.

He emerged into bright winter sunshine, stepped onto the lush field and pulled on a cap. His long-sleeve green rugby jersey was untucked and buttoned right up to the top, a style all his own.

On the back, a gold No. 6, big and bold.

Within seconds, the chants went up from the fans packed into Ellis Park stadium in the heart of Johannesburg: "Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!"

Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president, was wearing the colours of the Springboks and 65,000 white rugby supporters were joyously shouting his name.

It was 1995.

The Rugby World Cup final, the sport's biggest game.

And yet it was much more.

It was nation-defining for South Africa, a transcendent moment in the transformation from apartheid to multi-racial democracy.

The day spawned books and a blockbuster Clint Eastwood movie. It still speaks - nearly 20 years later - to what sport is capable of achieving.

With his cap and a team jersey, Mandela showed an incisive understanding of the role sport plays in millions of lives.

"Sport has the power to change the world," Mandela said.

"It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does."

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