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

by John Carlin

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Invictus

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 |
Nelson Mandela is my hero. Rugby is my game (I'm from the South Wales valleys, 'nuff said).

Simply the best book I've read all year, it was absolutely awesome. Mandela's methods for disarming and charming everyone were inspirational - this is the only inspirational book I've read (I can't get into that genre at all).

I've just been chucked out without notice from a private group 'Back in Skinny Jeans' on Goodreads where some member/s don't like non-Americans, non-Republicans, non-Christians and perhaps non-Whites and really wanted me to know their views. I fit it into all those groups, so did Mandala. He would have disarmed them and made them think again, he had a way of bringing out the most decent parts of even despicable people. I may never have his charisma, but following the lessons he developed transforming himself from an advocate of violence to one of reconcilliation, I may become just a bit of a better person. ( )
  Petra.Xs | Apr 2, 2013 |
This book was the basis for the recent movie Invictus, which I had seen and enjoyed. The book is less rugby-focused than the movie and focuses more on the political challenges Nelson Mandela faced in ending apartheid in South Africa. I learned a lot about the process which I had never known before. At times the author seemed to be so enamored of Mandela that he lost his way in explaining how this man changed his country, but that is a small complaint. Having seen the movie and read the book, I was impressed (for the most part) with how true to life the movie was. I recommend them both! (Note: apparently the book has been re-released under the title Invictus, but the content remains the same.) ( )
1 vote ACQwoods | Jul 10, 2011 |
For those with an interest in South Africa and the struggles against apartheid, this will be an interesting and worthwhile read. The movie version of the book was somewhat disappointing -- the producers surely could have found some South African actors to play the lead roles! They also might have drawn a larger audience if they'd gone with the book titled rather than with "Invictus". ( )
  Jcambridge | Jun 29, 2011 |
The story begins by introducing what Nelson Mandela is like and who he was. It talks a bit about his usual routine and how it had differed the morning of the rugby match where South Africa would compete against New Zealand in the finals of the Rugby World Cup. It then tells of some people who affected his life and their opinions of the day. Next the story tells of how he had created a violent organization that was against the idea that wanted to end the apartheid. After being jailed, this violence changed and he became a peaceful, easier going man. He used the great charisma he had and the skills of his previous jobs to allow him to go through prison much more easily and arrange meetings with some political leaders in order to fulfill his new goal of becoming the first black president of South Africa. His goal, after using his charisma to get on good terms with Kobie Coestsee, a man who had first met Mandela while he was in the hospital, he next sought to charm P. W. Botha, the president of South Africa at the time. Mandela’s goal at the time, for the most part, was for a peaceful end to the apartheid at the very least. He wanted and hoped to attain equality in the segregated nation. Once again, Mandel did well with impressing those who had previously been against his acts. This activated Mandela’s next step to leave jail and work his charms on all whites of South Africa. About a quarter of the way through the book, François Pienaar, a man who was the captain of the Springboks and a man who would help, when Mandela became president, to bring unification of all South Africans by him along with team. As it turns out, François was never really interested and understanding of politics. He had always in younger years thought of rugby as just a sport and enjoyed violence for the sake of violence. This was great due to the fact that rugby is quite a violent sport that was thought to be savage. On February 11, 1990, Mandela was finally released from his sentence and left to make a speech as a free man. This he failed to arrive on time for and fell short of what was expected. He made up for this with a speech at a press conference to charm the world with his charisma, once again taking stage to make a better country. This conference caused some white Africans to believe that a black man would be capable of this internal dispute. Pienaar, who had been watching, no matter how much he wasn’t interested in politics, had been touched by what Mandela had said. Within a month of getting out of prison, Mandela was once again placed in prison, this time with a death sentence. Mandela, in the end, was not executed and was then released from prison. After that, many struggles of the white Africans and black Africans continued and even turned against whites who supported Mandela and his goal for a peaceful end to the fighting and separation. He then started his campaign to become the president of South Africa. Running against F.W. de Klerk, he had initially had little chance at winning. De Klerk would often be better prepared than Mandela and was winning the political campaign since near the beginning. A few days after a debate, De Klerk admitted that he believed that Mandela was a great opponent. Mandela won thanks to the fact that 89% of the votes were that of black Africans. Because of him coming into office, many whites originally thought that they would have to leave. Mandela was able to convince once again his powers of charisma by presenting himself as the kind old man that he was. Mandela and Pienaar finally meet when Mandela calls upon Pienaar for a meeting that would use rugby to unite the separated nation. This was influenced by the first meeting between Mandela and Pienaar where Mandela mentioned the power to influence people, the greatest weapon when being a politician. During the first game of the Rugby World Cup, many people disagreed with the idea of supporting the Springboks because they were a great symbol for the white side of the war on the apartheid. For this, Mandela was booed out of the stadium after having shook hands with each of the players. The key game in this way to uniting the two peoples of South Africa was the final game of the Rugby World Cup where the Springboks went against New Zealand. New Zealand, thought by many to be the likely winner, was quite terrifying and rough with the game. This win, in the end, was the greatest unification process between the two different races. This enrapture towards the game caused many people to become proud of what they believed was a symbol of their previous oppressors. Nelson Mandela succeeded in doing what was thought impossible.
I found that this book was very moving and gave a very understandable perspective on the life of how black Africans were thanks to the apartheid. This book put Nelson Mandela in the light that he deserved for achieving something that had once been thought to be so impossible. This book was a great read that showed the raw emotion which caused the change in South Africa. ( )
  brittlandess | Oct 28, 2010 |
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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.
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In 1985, Nelson Mandela, then in prison for 23 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. 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 farfetched causes imaginable--the national rugby team, the Springboks, who would host the sport's World Cup in 1995. Author Carlin, former South Africa bureau chief for the London Independent, offers a portrait of the greatest statesman of our time in action.--From publisher description.… (more)

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