The late Nelson Mandela understood the true power of sports

Thursday December 5th, 2013
Nelson Mandela hands the 1995 Rugby World Cup trophy to South African captain Francios Pienaar.

As the soccer became more competitive, disputes occurred. Everything, though, was done absolutely by the book. If players were disciplined, they would be granted the right to argue their case and then to appeal if the judgment went against them. "At the time in South Africa there was no due process," said Sedick Isaacs, another former prisoner who is now a professor of medicine at Cape Town University. "There was torture and coercion. This was a chance to show you could have due process and how it could work."

Mandela celebrates after handing the 1996 African Cup of Nations trophy to South African captain Neil Tovey.

Mandela recognized that. It is to his credit, and that of the South Africa he tried to build, that the euphoric surge of patriotism was inspired not by conflict, but by the nation coming together over sports.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide — from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Grant Wahl, Andy Staples and more — delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.