Muhammad Ali, Fifa mourn Mandela

Muhammad Ali, Fifa mourn Mandela

Tributes poured in from across the sporting world for Nelson Mandela, who died aged 95 on Thursday, including from the International Olympic Committee, football governing body FIFA and a moving valediction from former boxer Muhammad Ali.

The heavyweight great said he was "deeply saddened" by the death of the former South Africa president, who had 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," Ali said in a statement.

"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."

South African rugby also paid its respects to the "miracle" performed by Mandela in uniting his country, partly through his embrace of the Springbok rugby team at the 1995 World Cup.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner 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.

"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."

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

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.

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