Why #DownsBarca game the perfect way to honour Madiba

Minister Jeff Radebe, right, and Sundowns president Patrice Motsepe during the announcement by Mamelodi Sundowns that it will be hosting La Liga Champions FC Barcelona.

Minister Jeff Radebe, right, and Sundowns president Patrice Motsepe during the announcement by Mamelodi Sundowns that it will be hosting La Liga Champions FC Barcelona.

Published May 11, 2018


This is the speech given on Thursday by Minister Jeff Radebe, chairperson of the IMC on Nelson Mandela and Mrs Albertina Sisulu centenary celebrations on the launch of the Barcelona and Mamelodi Sundowns Game:

Programme Director;

President of SAFA;

Executives of the PSL;

The President of Mamelodi Sundowns FC;

The President of Barcelona FC;

The Nelson Mandela Foundation;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

I wish to thank you for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Inter-Ministerial Committee in the centenary of Nelson Mandela and Mama Albertina Sisulu who would have been one Hundred years this year had they lived longer.

Today’s event could not have come at a better time. We celebrate the birth of the founding father of our democracy Nelson Mandela under the theme:“Be the legacy”, as well as Mama Albertina Nontsikelelo Sisulu one of the shining examples of our struggle who dedicated her life to the service of her people under the theme: “A Woman of fortitude.”

 We are also celebrating the centenary of President Mandela at a sad time. Although it was unplanned, as no passing away can be planned, in the year of what would have been Nelson Mandela’s one hundred years, his ex-wife also passed away.  In the typical South African spirit, we have embraced Mama Winnie’s passing away as a celebration of her life rather than a loss.  

The globalisation of the icon Mandela could not have been done better than the soccer exhibition that will be displayed by the two teams, each one of them a drawer of crowds, display of style and consistency but following in Mandela’s footsteps of uniting people across regions and continents.

 The 2018 Comrades Marathon will be dedicated to Nelson Mandela. This global event has drawn athletes from all the corners of the World, making it a recognized symbol of South Africa’s ability to organise, host and dispense its hospitality to its guests and visitors. The spirit that Mandela imbued South African with, will be on ample display as the game will show.

All departments will be hosting various events celebrating Mandela. But as we always, Government alone will not be able to achieve all that it seeks to achieve without cooperation will all sectors of society. As the IMC, we would like to congratulate the cooperation that has been displayed in the hosting of this game between the football authorities of our country, and the management of the two teams.

The game will fall in lock-in-step with the preparations that are already underway in the United Nations. It will also fall lock-in-step with the Mandela Foundation’s invitation to former US President Barack to deliver the Mandela lecture in July. There can be no more proof than these events that although Mandela was South Africa, his vision for a better world extended beyond our shores.

More than the game itself, I suppose Mandela is happy where he is that his name is being appropriately linked to an effort that united people across the oceans. I also suppose Mandela is satisfied that the tickets costs would not be as prohibitive as to prevent the many enthusiastic South African soccer fans from attending the game. The celebration of such an icon as Madiba, should not be limited by costs factors.  I still have a vivid memory of a young Afghan boy whose love for his star, Lionel Messi led him to fashion a Messi soccer jersey in plastic. Such is the global reach of football and the icons we will be witnessing on the 16th.

Both teams are recognised as champions in their continents and their leagues, and despite the misfortune that has befallen Barcelona to Roma last Tuesday, South Africans will be delighted to see their heroes in action. South Africans fall in love with love with their sports icons through thick and thin.

Their delight is that it was the Mandela we will be honouring, who amongst others who made this possible. In the past, a world-class team like Barcelona would have avoided our shores. In the past, a team like Sundowns, would not have been allowed to compete in the continental competitions to the extent of even winning them. 

The game has given much impetus to the expected concentration of the celebration during the month of Mandela’s birth July. As the Inter-Ministerial Committee, we will use the success of the game between as another template for better preparations for July.

One of the themes which the IMC had identified is the promotion of an active and healthy lifestyle through sports:  We have to organise or host sports tournaments in his honour and donate proceeds from such activities to non-profit organisations. These can be held at work, schools or communities. The event to be announced today falls within this specific theme.

Even though Mandela was a boxer, his love for sports cuts across all sports codes, supporting rugby and turned it into a sport of inclusiveness rather than exclusion.

President Mandela personally saw off South African teams competing in global events, encouraging them to hold their heads high as representatives of South Africans, but more so as ambassadors for peace, unity and reconciliation.

He gave them the necessary encouragement which has become to be known as the Madiba magic, an inspiration that has outlived him as a rallying call for South African sportspersons to do better as representatives of a new South Africa.

The game on the 16th of this month will unavoidably send tongues wagging about the contest between Messi and Percy. But the actual rhyming of the two and the contest will be a detraction. The essence of the game will be the joy of South Africans joining hands with the world in the appreciation of the role that was played by Madiba in bringing peace and justice.

As the IMC we should be saying may the best team win as a sports cliché to both teams. But to us as the IMC, our dreams of a successful celebration of the centenary will be best served by the long-lasting friendships that will arise from such a game. Mandela would not have wished for more, because he had made his mission in life that South Africans should respect, and be respected by other nations purely by the common humanity.

I thank you.

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