Liverpool FC legends commemorate Nelson Mandela

Published Mar 24, 2018


In 1994, Nelson Mandela was photographed wearing a Liverpool Football Club jersey, surrounded by the LFC squad.

The picture, which went republished worldwide, was taken during the English football club’s post-season trip to South Africa in May that same year.

It was the club’s first trip to South Africa in which the team and staff were fortunate enough to brush shoulders with the icon.

But was Madiba really a Liverpool fan?

One of club's most prolific goal scorers, Robbie Fowler, thinks so.

“Of course he was, he had the Liverpool top on didn't he?” Fowler says as he giggles away.

A star footballer in his day, Fowler met some of the most influential people in the world, but meeting Tata Madiba ranks as one of the highlights of his life.

“I think we've been blessed with what we do. We travel the world and meet all sorts of famous people, from movie stars, to athletes, but meeting Madiba was on a completely different level.

“One of the first things I remember is when Nelson Mandela walked into the room, I felt incredibly awestruck. We all knew who he was and when he walked in, you could feel that you were in the presence of greatness, it was a really special moment.”

The 42-year-old has a picture of himself and Madiba in his home in Liverpool.

“The picture is absolutely priceless. Each time I see it, I get shivers down my spine. I saved a special place for it in my home.”

Fowler, together with former LFC teammates Steve McManaman and John Barnes, were in South Africa this week to commemorate Madiba’s 100th birthday. Mandela would have turned 100 in July.

The LFC Legends together with the Mandela 8 team from the UK also announced that the City of Liverpool plans to honour the Struggle stalwart by placing a permanent memorial in the city.

The memorial artwork, which will be created on the lake island of Toxteth Park and launched in June, will be known as Mandela Island, and the bridge linking the island with the park will be called Freedom Bridge.

Barnes, Fowler, and McManaman were in the country for three days, where they hosted a gala dinner for fans, with part of the proceeds from the dinner going towards several charitable causes, including The House Group in support of young girls who are survivors of human trafficking.

The former players also hosted a coaching clinic with 250 underprivileged children which took place at the Metrostars Football Development Centre in Benoni.

​Liverpool Legends Robbie Fowler, John Barnes and Steve McManaman were in the country this week to promote the
 #LIVERPOOL4MADIBA ​campaign. The tour is to promote the building of a memorial in honour of Nelson Mandela and will commemorate what would have been his 100th birthday in July.

Fowler is particularly delighted that the memorial will be at Toxteth Park.

“I spent most of my time as a young boy playing football with my mates there, so I am really excited that the Mandela memorial will be created there,” says the club’s former number 9.

Barnes, who spends a sub-

stantial amount of time in South Africa working as a pundit for SuperSport, said he was honoured to have met Mandela during his time as captain.

Jamaican-born Barnes interviewed Mandela while on tour with the Reds in Africa in 1994.

“I was very fortunate to sit down and interview the great man. I was the captain and was asked to do a documentary on South Africa, while the rest of the squad went sightseeing.

“I went around with a camera crew to Pretoria, first to interview FW de Klerk. It was in a very formal setting.

“Later that day I was asked to introduce the squad to Madiba, which I was incredibly excited about.

“When I met him I asked him if it would be okay if I interviewed him for a short while. I was expecting Madiba to say come to my office and chat. Instead, he invited me to come over to his home for the interview.

“It was an enormous privilege because it was a one-on-one interview. I liked his passion and commitment. He was a great world leader and politician, but he had humility. He had compassion and forgiveness. He was just a great human being.”

Barnes said the one thing that impressed him the most about Madiba was the fact that the icon was so humble.

“What really stood out for me was how he was such a humble person - for not saying how great a person he was for what he achieved.

“He was just an incredible man. When you were around him you could feel that you were in the presence of greatness.

“He kept telling me there were greater people than himself who didn't live to see this day.”

Barnes, who won both of English football’s 1987-88 player of the year accolades while at Liverpool, also revealed that Madiba told him he was a Liverpool supporter.

“Mr Mandela said that he loved Liverpool and that he supported Liverpool. I gave him a signed shirt and it's in the Mandela museum. He admired Liverpool and he

liked me.”

McManaman, who played for LFC and Real Madrid, said he was delighted to be back in South Africa, and fortunate enough to be part of a tour that commemorated Madiba.

“I’ve been to South Africa many times. I have come here with Liverpool on tour, and for the World Cup.

“I always jump at the opportunity to come back to see the people.

"This whole experience, and what we are trying to achieve and do, is incredibly uplifting and very enjoyable.”

​Liverpool Legends promoting the tour in honour of Nelson Mandela and will commemorate what would have been his 100th birthday.

McManaman also paid tribute to LFC’s South African fan base, saying it is one of the biggest and best in the world.

“Having played for a club as big as Liverpool with its rich history, we enjoy support from all corners of the world. But the support we have in South Africa blows me away each time I come here.

“We played a game

in Durban many years ago, and there were over 30000 Liverpool fans all wearing their kits and singing You’ll Never Walk Alone. It was breathtaking to see.

“Some of the foreign players who were touring South Africa for the first time could not believe the size of support we have in the country,” McManaman said.

Meanwhile, Lynn Collins, the chairperson of the Mandela 8 project, says she is thrilled that their plans for a memorial for Mandela have come to fruition.

“Liverpool’s relationship with Madiba and South Africa goes back a long time.

“As a city that fights for social justice, we really associate with the people of South Africa, and those other countries that are struggling across the world to obtain social justice,” says Collins.

“Once Mr Mandela became president of South Africa, he was given freedom of the City of Liverpool, which was really important to us, and once we gave that freedom, we didn’t want that to be a gesture.

“We wanted to create a legacy.

“When Madiba passed on, we put our heads together to figure out how we would create a legacy for this great man.”

Collins also revealed that they are working with the city of Liverpool so children in Liverpool can learn about Mandela at school.

“Our hope is that by July this year, every school in Liverpool will have a copy of A Long Walk To Freedom and every child will be introduced to the life of Nelson Mandela,” she said.

The Saturday Star

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