Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the…

Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation

by John Carlin

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3992026,786 (4.2)13

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 13 mentions

English (13)  Spanish (6)  Catalan (1)  All (20)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Overall a good, but not great, book. I was happy to read it after Mandela's death last month, however, since I know so little about South Africa and the struggle to end apartheid. The book looks at the period of 1985-1995, from when Mandela began secret negotiations with the South African government to end apartheid up until the Sprinboks won the Rugby World Cup, which Carlin takes as symbolizing the unification and reconciliation of the nation. Mandela was clearly a remarkable man, and this was worthwhile, even if the writing wasn't always shimmering. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
Loved the movie, 'Invictus'. Hope the book is as good.

August 20/2010
I began reading a few weeks ago. I am afraid that it is not as appealing as the movie; however, I must add that I am not a fan of this genre and generally read for enjoyment.

While the story is interesting it is not engaging as far as I am concerned. I prefer the page turners that are totally implausible but fun to read. It is going to be one of those books to be read in-between the escapism books and will be read a few chapters every now and then - unless the tempo of the story increases.

I intend to keep reading as the Mandela/apartheid story is interesting and it never ceases to amaze me that Mandela could survive 27 in prison and be as influential as he has been both in and out of prison.

As mentioned earlier, this is not my favourite genre. However, I find that there are parts of this story which are truly inspiring and one becomes excited and imagines that more of the same will follow only to be disappointed with further facts and figures of Mandela’s life story and abolition of apartheid.

With around 70 pages left to read I do not intend to make any further posts regarding ‘Playing The Enemy’.

There is enough interest to keep me reading but as has been proven many other times – I am not a fan of this genre!

Merry Christmas to all.

The last 100 pages reminded me of the movie. ( )
  DCarlin | Jan 23, 2016 |
As I made my way through John Carlin’s Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation, I kept thinking back to the Clint Eastwood-directed, Morgan Freeman- and Matt-Damon starring movie Invictus, which is based on this book. The film was entertaining and thoughtful, although it seemed to be a bit more upbeat than I expected, considering that it follows Nelson Mandela from the beginning of his presidency, a time still very fraught with racial tensions in South Africa. Invictus focuses on Mandela and his involvement with the Springboks (the South African rugby team), whom he encouraged his countrymen to support (the Springboks were mostly supported by the Afrikaners, and for many non-whites symbolised white supremacy). The movie mostly suggests these tensions, and makes use of Mandela’s white and black bodyguards to illustrate some of these tensions (not all that effectively).

Reading Playing the Enemy became a game of ‘spot the difference’ for me. For instance, Invictus left the impression on me that prior to winning the 1995 Rugby World Cup, the Springboks were quite a hopeless team (apparently not all that true). They had, for instance, beaten the All Blacks before, as well as Argentina, another strong team, if I remember correctly from the book. Perhaps the biggest tragedy of Invictus was the lack of excitement in their rugby footage! The husband and I were commenting that even an episode of Friday Night Lights has more exciting sports footage than Invictus! And also, the role of team captain Francois Pienaar is played up. The movie portrays it as his idea to have the team learn the new anthem (it was the team manager’s idea). And the team did not react as negatively as the movie suggests, and many of the team members embraced it wholeheartedly, such as James Small, an Englishman who had felt ostracized by his teammates.

More importantly, Playing the Enemy also made me realize just how much was glossed over, or perhaps not even mentioned at all. The violence, the protests, the false arrests, the assassinations, especially of Afrikaners such as the defense attorney working to free the Upington 14 who were accused of killing a black policeman who had fired into a crowd. There wasn’t enough of a sense of this tension, of the background that shocked the world.

But enough about the movie. Movies tend to pale when compared to the book, don’t they? Playing the Enemy is yet another well-written non-fiction book, from which the movie pulled information from just the last few chapters. It sustains one’s interest in a subject that could easily have been bogged down by too much information. (Here I should admit that I am somewhat interested in rugby. Thanks to its colonial past, Singapore does actually have a national rugby team, and so do many of the schools and I have actually seen watched a little rugby – at the Singapore Sevens, although I never thought that I’d ever read a book on rugby.) There are ample interviews with relevant people, which was aided by Carlin’s journalism background (he was The Independent’s South African bureau chief in the late 1990s). The information is well laid out and interspersed with interesting anecdotes and quotes, and he provides plenty of background for ignoramuses like me, who need to a refresher on South Africa’s apartheid history. Unlike the movie, the book wasn’t all about the game. The Rugby World Cup final was the culmination of all this planning, strategic or accidental, so like the firework spectacular at a new year celebration, it gave the world a big bang to wow over. Carlin does a wonderful job capturing the issues, the hostility, introducing a host of other characters but at the same time keeping Mandela very firmly as the main personality, the driving force of these events, both captivating and enigmatic. This is Mandela’s story, this is South Africa’s story, as it very rightly is.

Highly recommended! ( )
  RealLifeReading | Jan 19, 2016 |
Fascinating and wonderfully well-written account of the story of the South African rugby team and its significance in the defeat of apartheid. The author does a great job of bringing all the leading characters to life. History with drama - excellent book. ( )
  rosiezbanks | Nov 14, 2015 |

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

-William Ernest Henley
  smetchie | Apr 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original title
Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Book description
Publisher Comments:
A thrilling, inspiring account of one of the greatest charm offensives in history — Nelson Mandela's 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 Africa's military. First he earned his freedom and then he won the presidency in the nation's first free election in 1994. But he knew that South Africa was still dangerously divided by almost fifty years of apartheid. If he couldn't unite his country in a visceral, emotional way and fast it would collapse into chaos. He would need all the charisma and strategic acumen he had honed during half a century of activism, and he'd need a cause all South Africans could share. Mandela picked one of the more far-fetched causes imaginable — the national rugby team, the Springboks, who would host the sport's World Cup in 1995.

Against the giants of the sport, the Springboks' 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 embody — and engage — the new South Africa. And the Springboks themselves embraced the scheme. Soon South African TV would carry images of the team singing "Nkosi Sikelele Afrika," the longtime anthem of black resistance to apartheid.

As their surprising 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 Zealand's heavily favored squad, Mandela sat in his presidential box wearing a Springbok jersey while sixty-two-thousand fans, mostly white, chanted "Nelson! Nelson!" 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 odds-makers and capping Mandela's 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 Mandela's momentous campaign, and the Springboks' unlikely triumph. As he makes stirringly clear, their championship transcended the mere thrill of victory to erase ancient hatreds and make a nation whole.
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

After being released from prison and winning South Africa's first free election, Nelson Mandela presided over a country still deeply divided by fifty years of apartheid. His plan was ambitious if not far-fetched: Use the national rugby team, the Springboks--long an embodiment of white supremacist rule--to embody and engage a new South Africa as they prepared to host the 1995 World Cup. The string of wins that followed not only defied the odds, but capped Mandela's miraculous effort to bring South Africans together in a hard-won, enduring bond.… (more)

» see all 6 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
10 avail.
52 wanted
1 pay

Popular covers


Average: (4.2)
1.5 1
3 9
3.5 4
4 25
4.5 7
5 24

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 117,053,602 books! | Top bar: Always visible