Book report on "Playing the Enemy" by John Carlin The book ‘Playing the Enemy’, written by a half-Spanish, half-British bilinguist, is a gripping story about how one individual was able to bring a significant amount of unity to a nation suffering the great lashes of racism, and he does this by means of a rugby game…
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Uniting the blacks and whites in South Africa was considered a lost cause by many people, because the divide did not only center on colour, but culture as well. The whites had a more Western-influenced culture than the blacks who clearly embraced their traditional African roots. This was the challenge that Nelson Mandela, a black South African president faced. But he, being a man who rarely gave up, knew that if there was a God in heaven, then there was hope for unity, no matter how tall the obstacle is. With this, he took upon himself to find a way to unite the two camps of humanity that shared the same land. For he too believed that, as long as we both live in the same land, “your freedom and mine cannot be separated” (Carlin, 2008, 23). The book reveals that Nelson Mandela decided to make his move in a rugby game because rugby was one of the favourite recreational sports for the white South Africans. It was a sport the blacks did not take much part in, for they deemed it a white-man’s game. But despite this, there is some influence that sports can exert to people. It has the ability to make friends out of enemies, because it helps them come together to cheer for a common interest. Carlin (2008, Page 163) showed belief in the power of sport when he mentioned Mandela’s statement, “let us use sport for the purpose of nation-building and promoting all the ideas which we think will lead to peace and stability in our country”. The team in focus were the Springboks, the then national rugby team of South Africa. A significant number of people can be found who believe that, that team was one of the best rugby teams the nation ever had. But though it represented the nation, it was entirely composed of white men, and as expected, the audience was mostly whites. Strangely, Mandela saw this as a ripe field to promote his agenda. But this was no walk in the park for the great man. He would have to gather all the charm and charisma he had amassed during his 50 years of activism, and his strategy demanded a cause all South Africans could support. His strategy was pure genius. He agreed to host the 1995 rugby world cup games in South Africa. In addition to this he endeavoured to inspire the black South Africans to develop an interest for the sport. Although not fully successful in this endeavour, he managed to get enough blacks onto his bandwagon to ensure that his plan would work out smoothly. For the Springboks, they were facing one of the giants of the sport, the gargantuan New Zealand All Blacks, a team whose unparalleled success and discipline spoke for itself. This was no easy game for the Springboks and they knew it very well. Their chances of winning were small, but greater still, their chances of winning the hearts of their black countrymen were much smaller. Carlin specified some prominent men that contributed in making that day eventful. The first individual is Francois Pienaar the six foot Captain of the Springboks. The other one is, Linga Moonsamy, Mandela’s top bodyguard on that day. Other prominent figures are, Niel Barnard, who was once the head of the intelligence services during the apartheid-era, and Justice Bekebeke a man that had spent a significant amount of time under death sentence for committing murder, and Desmond Tutu who is revealed
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