Custom «Playing the Enemy» Essay Paper Sample

Playing the Enemy

The book's cover has a photograph that shows a moment that many, even those who have never been to South Africa or watched rugby match, will admit to be iconic. Nelson Mandela, the man who endured 27 years in prison and eventually emerged to be president is seen handing Francois Pienaar, the team's captain, the rugby world cup. Both are wearing the Rugby shirt for Springbok, a symbol that was once hated by many. The author, John Carlin was a news paper correspondent in South Africa from 1989-1995, a period witnessed the release of Mandela, the end of apartheid, the first free elections in 1994 and the rugby world cup. He did not just therefore understand South Africa better, but he also became Mandela's friend. (Whitaker par. 1)

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The theme of the book is the South African "miracle": a revolution that was negotiated to see apartheid give way to the rule of the majority without any bloodshed as many people thought. The book clearly shows that the key to all these was Mandela's decision he made in prison that he needed to persuade his Afrikaner adversaries. A decision that made him learn Afrikaans to win over the harsh prison warder, he snatched up the opportunity that the game of rugby offered because it was the Afrikaners secular religion. But as he successfully winning over his captor, another potential problem was looming. His 1990 release did not stop bloodshed in the black townships, this even intensified as the right wingers of the whites openly talked about a coup. The most dramatic moment in the book is Mandela's encounter with the retired military chief, Constand Viljoen. He was the head of the diehard whites. He made the Afrikaners agree that there could be no winner in a war. Mandela remained conscious of the vital need to gain white acceptance even after his election and the World Cup seemed to be right means to achieve this. Having wooed his own blacks to let the team keep the hated Springbok emblem, Mandela embarked on winning the Afrikaners, and this came when the Afrikaner players learned to sing "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika", the black half of the national anthem. The book shows Mandela calling the players "my boys" as he was talking to them, something that most of the blacks remained indifferent to. This seemed to change as the Springboks gradually progressed to the finals. The excitement from the white followers definitely infected the majority blacks. (Whitaker par. 3)

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The excitement was even made more with the president's sensational appearance in a Springbok shirt at the final where they were playing against the All Blacks of Newzealand. The mammoth Afrikaner crowd proudly chanted his name, and when the team finally won against all odds, the whole of South Africa flew into frenzy. The Afrikaner populous believed Mandela had won them the cup. This is seen when he was thanking Pienaar for what he had done for the country, the Captain replies, "No, Mr. President. Thank you very much for what you have done for our country." It is this moment that also dispelled Viljoen's doubts of having abandoned the threat of war. This is just one of the many expressive testimonies to the Mandela effect that the book cites. (Whitaker par. 6)

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This was no doubt Mandela's book, where Carlin has portrayed him as a master politician, a man that was able to manipulate allies and adversaries alike and come to terms with all of them; a man who was able to use a less popular game among his people in uniting the whole nation. This is really a master piece that is a must read especially by those with leadership ambitions.

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