How Nelson Mandela United a Country During 1995 Rugby World Cup

François Pienaar - the athlete who made Africa safer

From the moment African countries ceased to be colonies, civil wars have not stopped there. The average person has no idea what is going on, for example, in Somalia. In addition, people in this country have been fighting each other for decades. And this is only the most famous example, and how many of them in fact, probably, no one will answer for sure.

Few would have noticed if another conflict arose in one of the African states. But one day this did not happen. Largely thanks to François Pienaar, the captain of the South African rugby team. Let us tell you what his merit to his home country is.

It's about politics: the reasons for hatred between blacks and whites

Even before South Africa became independent, the authorities limited the rights of blacks. When World War II broke out, the government of the South African Union - as the state was then called - was divided. Two parties sat in parliament: the pro-British, which insisted on joining the war on the side of the allies, and the Boer, which held ultra-right views. Nationalists supported the policy of the Third Reich and believed that the country should enter the war on the side of the Axis.

It so happened that it was the Burqa party that won the first post-war elections. After coming to power, they began a policy of oppression of the black population. The party slogan was: South Africa for whites. Blacks were moved to reservations, the main part of the country was closed to them. They were deprived of citizenship, banned from participating in elections, from entering into mixed marriages, from receiving education and medical care, and also prevented from getting full employment.

François Pienaar - the athlete who made Africa safer

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President Nelson Mandela and the first World Cup rugby

After the declaration of independence, an illegal party appeared in the country - the African National Congress. It included Nelson Mandela. At first, the party tried to fight the ruling regime with adequate methods, but after the shooting of the peaceful demonstration, it turned to armed resistance. In the end, Mandela ended up in prison: he was sentenced to life in prison and spent 27 years behind bars. After his release, Mandela continued to fight for the rights of blacks, and finally, in 1994, he won the presidential election. The indigenous population regained rights, but the gap between the races remained enormous. People with different skin colors hated each other, and a civil war could break out at any moment.

In honor of the overthrow of apartheid, the International Rugby Council allowed South Africa to host Kuboto the world. Rugby in Africa was considered a white sport and was perceived as one of the symbols of the fallen regime. The absurdity reached the point that during the matches the black population supported the rival teams. After watching one of the games, Nelson Mandela invited the team captain, François Pienaar, to his place. The President told the athlete about his desire to unite the nation around the national team. It was then that the slogan appeared: One country - one team.

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François Pienaar: from youth games to the South African national team

François Pienaar was born in the city of Verening into a family of Afrikaners, as the descendants of the Dutch settlers were called. For the first time rugby entered the life of a boy at the age of six. He spent most of his career as a flanker. The main task of the players of this role is to take the ball away from the opponent. François performed at the youth level until graduation, after which he entered the university and received an athletic scholarship. In his student years, Pienaar began to be called up to the youth teams of South Africa.

After finishing his studies, François signed his first professional contract. The athlete began to play for the Transvaal team, which represented the province of the same name in domestic competitions in South Africa. For this club, Pienaar spent more than 100 games, and in most of them he was the team captain. He was called up to the main national team of the country in 1992 and from the first to the last match was its captain. His first game was a meeting with New Zealand in the framework of the Three Nations Cup.

After meeting with President François was imbued with the idea of ​​uniting the country. The first thing the team did was to arrange meetings with blacks to educate them about rugby and its rules. Following the antelope, as the South African rugby team is called, they decided to take an unprecedented step - to invite black players to the team. Pienaar on the national team did the same thing that Nelson Mandela did nationwide. They combined symbols that are meaningful to different races. For example, the national team began to sing a full hymn, which consisted of two parts.

François Pienaar - the athlete who made Africa safer

Photo: David Rogers / Allsport / Getty Images

François Pienaar - the athlete who made Africa safer

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The path of the hopeless antelopes to the World Cup final

The South African national team was considered the weakest among the participants in the games, so no one expected high results from it. Ironically, the very first match in the World Cup was to take place against the reigning champion - Australia. And this game became a real sensation! Underdog, whom no one took seriously, beat the world champion with a score27:18.

The next contender for South Africa was Canada, which could not at all withstand the hosts of the tournament. The result is 20: 0. Quite a confident application to leave the group, but this was not enough for gazelles. Therefore, they won their third victory, beating Romania with a score of 21: 8. In the quarterfinals, they had to enter the field against the Western Samoa national team. At that time, this team represented a serious force and had experience of playing in the playoffs. The South African national team again surprised everyone by defeating the opponent with a score of 42:14.

François Pienaar - the athlete who made Africa safer

Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe / Getty Images

In the semifinals, the antelopes fought with another strong player - the French national team. It seemed that now these upstarts from Africa would definitely be put in their place, because to beat the reigning European champion in the semifinals of the World Cup, to put it mildly, is not easy. But François and company once again took the upper hand and reached the final.

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South Africa's first ever victory in the Rugby World Championship

Before the main match of the tournament, Nelson Mandela attended the team's training session. He personally talked with each of the players, thanked them for what they have achieved. The athletes responded by giving him a baseball cap of the national team. On the day of the match, the president appeared on the podium: he was wearing a jersey of the national team with the captain's number and the same baseball cap.

The hosts played on defense, as they understood that there was a chance to win the match with such an opponent as Novaya Zealand, few. Every mistake could be worth a victory. The game plan was a success: in the main time, the opponents could not earn points from the game. But it didn't work out completely to keep the opponents, New Zealand opened an account with a free kick. Very soon the hosts of the tournament were able to equalize the score with a reciprocal free kick. Later, the teams once again exchanged effective free throws. And, finally, the South African team took the lead. It is impossible to describe what was happening in the stands at that moment.

François Pienaar - the athlete who made Africa safer

Photo: Mike Hewitt / Getty Images

The New Zealand national team managed to level the score only in the second half. Then, at the very end of the meeting, the guest player tried to score a drop goal - to kick the ball so that it flew into the point area. The stadium froze, but the attempt was not counted. The game went into extra time, the rivals again exchanged effective actions. And finally, seven minutes before the end of extra time, the gazelles set the final score. Having endured the remaining few minutes, the South African national team became the world champion for the first time in history.

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Winning the championship as a step towards unification

Nelson Mandela entered the field in the same shirt and baseball cap to present the cup to the captain. François Pienaar dedicated this victory not only to those who came to the stadium, but to the entire nation. Perhaps it was the moment when the rugby players lifted the trophy over their heads, united the country, prevented war and saved a huge number of lives.

Unfortunately, the achievement at the World Cup was the only one in Pienaar's career. As part of the national team, he spent only 29 matches, after which, at the age of 29, he retired and went to England, where he briefly worked as a coach. Despite the move, he maintained a cordial relationship with Nelson Mandela. The ex-president even became the godfather of his children.

François Pienaar did not have a high-profile career in the international arena, he does not have a huge room with trophies. But what he did for his country is much more important than any award.

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