Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation

John Carlin, Author . Penguin Press $24.95 (274p) ISBN 978-1-59420-174-5

Carlin offers the final dramatic chapters of how then president Nelson Mandela and his wily strategy of using a sporting event—the Sprinkboks rugby team in the 1995 World Cup—to mend South Africa. Carlin, a senior international writer for El País , quotes Mandela: “Sports has the power to change the world.... It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.” After giving an informed capsule history of apartheid’s bitter legacy and Mandela’s noble stature as a leader, the scene is set for the influential rugby match between the solid New Zealand team and the scrappy South African squad in the finals of the World Cup, with 43 million blacks and whites awaiting the outcome. All of the cast in Afrikaner lore are here—Botha, DeKlerk, Bernard, Viljeon—as they match wits with Mandela. Carlin concludes this excellent book of redemption and forgiveness with chapters that depict how a divided country can be elevated beyond hate and malice to pride and healing. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 06/02/2008
Release date: 08/01/2008
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