With the story of the special bond between Nelson Mandela and Francois Pienaar, our "Champions of Equity" campaign continues, which is part of the RESPACT program, launched by the Rossoneri Club to promote social equity, equality, and inclusivity. The objective of "Champions of Equity" is to inspire all components of the football world through the enhancement of sports stories and personalities who have made a significant contribution to promoting tolerance and inclusion at an international level.
In 1995, just a year after Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa and three years after the official end of apartheid, South Africa was preparing to host the Rugby World Cup, a sport considered to be for whites only at the time. Mandela was convinced that hosting the World Cup was a great opportunity to bring the population together under a single flag by spreading the positive values of sport.
The friendship between Nelson Mandela and François Pienaar was born during the South African national team’s training camp ahead of the tournament. Mandela paid a surprise visit to the team one day: “You have the opportunity to do a great thing for South Africa, and to unite the people. Just remember this, that all of us, black or white, are with you”.
On June 24, 1995, the Springboks, the South African team, won a historic final against the feared All Blacks rugby team of New Zealand. There on the lawn of Ellis Park in Johannesburg to deliver the Cup to the captain of the host nation François Pienaar, was Nelson Mandela himself, who on that day decided to wear the same green cotton shirt as the Springboks.
The success of the South African national rugby team in the World Cup was not only an incredible sporting success but, above all, an extraordinary symbol of the rapprochement between whites and blacks as part of the national reconciliation process which was fundamental for the future of the country.