Changing Mindsets in South Africa
Francois Pienaar, captain of the Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok team in South Africa invigorated the audience at Doha GOALS with an emotional account relating to the power of sport involving the unification of a country and an inspirational president.
The story, as depicted in the film Invictus, saw Pienaar invited by President Mandela to lead the team on home soil with an ambition to win the World Cup for South Africa in 1995: “We were not favourites, and were just coming out of apartheid when rugby was seen as a ‘white’ sport,” he said.
With the support of Mandela who nominated the team as ‘our boys’, the country got behind the Springboks and their eventual victory in the final could be defined as the moment when South Africa went from apartheid to democracy, Pienaar added.
“For the first time in the country’s history, everyone was a world champion, everyone smiled and the nation came to a standstill – the deep wounds started healing and we became an example to the rest of the world.”
Moving on, he stressed the need to use the influence of such sporting success: “We have a responsibility to play forward and pay back.”