Every source of media has been inundated with Nelson Mandela tributes since the nation first heard of Madiba’s passing last Thursday night. It has been glowing, heartfelt and sombre but at the same time celebrated the life of an extraordinary individual.
Sports people, in particular, hold Madiba in the highest esteem, recollecting memories of when our former state president would take the time out of his hectic schedule to either congratulate them on an achievement or wish them luck ahead of a race, match or tournament with a personal call.
The World Cup-winning Springboks of 1995, of course, had many special moments with Madiba, while Bafana’s Class of 96, who won the African Cup of Nations on home soil, also vividly remembered their meetings.
The overwhelming feeling that shone through all these tributes was that their achievements were due to Madiba’s motivational presence, and not because of anything that they had done.
And that is why I could find the humour in “not even Madiba could help the Proteas at World Cups” which was said in jest earlier this week.
It is not that Madiba did not have an affection for cricket, as he attended Test matches in the 1990s fully clad in the green and yellow-striped blazer, and was also present at the World Cup opening match at Newlands in 2003.
Perhaps, the Proteas just wanted to show that Madiba was human after all, and not a god like his magical powers in the other major codes suggested.
But that is also why I believe the Proteas have unfinished business with Madiba.
A visibly emotional South African One-Day captain AB de Villiers spoke of his admiration for the great man before and after the series-winning match in Durban on Sunday: “It was a very emotional day. I’m just glad that we came out here and played some good cricket in front of a very good Durban crowd.
“It’s all about Madiba, and it’s nice to give him a win in memory of him. When you think of Nelson Mandela only good things come to mind. I think of words such as inspiration, role model, honour, forgiveness and Madiba magic. I consider myself very fortunate to have grown up in the Nelson Mandela era.
“With the passing of Madiba let us now more than ever stick together as a nation. We owe him that much.”
These final two sentences stared back at me, and I could not help but think that De Villiers was addressing his own team here. South African cricket has endured some taxing challenges off the field recently, while on the field De Villiers’s own ODI team have paled in the shadow of the all-conquering Test unit.
There have been times when a radical overhaul of the ODI team was called for, with De Villiers’s leadership position in its own right being under intense scrutiny.
It is perhaps ironic then that on the day of Madiba’s death AB and his team turned the corner at the Wanderers before going on to beat the world champions in a series a couple of days later. De Villiers knows his charges are “nowhere near the No 1 team in the world at the moment even though we have beaten them two in a row now” and that there is still lots of work ahead over the next 12 months before the Proteas can be regarded as serious challengers to India’s crown in 2015 in Australasia.
Maybe I am being caught up in the emotion of Madiba’s passing, and feeling a little giddy after my first visit to Kingsmead and the green hills of Pietermaritzburg over the weekend, but hopefully come 2015 the Proteas will get the great man smiling from above.
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@VDP_24 (Vernon Philander) Barack Obama ..... wow!!! Unbelievable Speech. Mandela showed us that we can change as people. #Unite #MandelaMemorial
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