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

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

by John Carlin


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The inspiration for the film INVICTUS, starring Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman. 

Beginning in a jail cell and ending in a rugby tournament- the true story of how the most inspiring charm offensive in history brought South Africa together. After being released from prison and winning South Africa's first free election, Nelson Mandela presided over a country still deeply divided by fifty years of apartheid. His plan was ambitious if not far-fetched: use the national rugby team, the Springboks-long an embodiment of white-supremacist rule-to embody and engage a new South Africa as they prepared to host the 1995 World Cup. The string of wins that followed not only defied the odds, but capped Mandela's miraculous effort to bring South Africans together again in a hard-won, enduring bond.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143115724
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/28/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 241,916
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

John Carlin is senior international writer for El País, the world’sleading Spanish language newspaper, and was previously the U.S.bureau chief for The Independent on Sunday. His writing has appeared inThe New York Times, The New Republic, Wired, Spin, and Conde NastTraveler.

Table of Contents

Playing The EnemyIntroduction

Chapter I: Breakfast in Houghton
Chapter II: The Minister of Justice
Chapter III: Separate Amenities
Chapter IV: Bagging the Croc
Chapter V: Different Planets
Chapter VI: Ayatollah Mandela
Chapter VII: The Tiger King
Chapter VIII: The Mask
Chapter IX: The Bitter-Enders
Chapter X: Romancing the General
Chapter XI: "Address Their Hearts"
Chapter XII: The Captain and the President
Chapter XIII: Springbok Serenade
Chapter XIV: Silvermine
Chapter XV: Doubting Thomases
Chapter XVI: The Number Six Jersey
Chapter XVII: "Nelson! Nelson!"
Chapter XVIII: Blood in the Throat
Chapter XIX: Love Thine Enemy

Where Are They Now?
A Note on Sources

A section of photographs follows page 114.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

" This wonderful book describes Mandela's methodical, improbable and brilliant campaign to reconcile resentful blacks and fearful whites around a sporting event, a game of rugby."
-The New York Times Book Review

" If you have any doubts about the political genius of Nelson Mandela, read John Carlin's engrossing book . . . [A] feel-good slice of history."
-USA Today

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Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a terrific read. Though they are releasing a movie they are missing the best part. I am an ex rugby player but I found the most interesting part takes place in the many years before the match. Three quarters of of the book is Mandela's negotiations with the Boer government during his captivity. I had no idea. It seems he went to great lengths to get to know his captors which included his gaining an understanding of their sporting interests. Later he has to transfer that interest to the Black African majority who hated rugby as it represented their oppressors. It is more a book about Mandela's human insight than the game. The fact that it was a unprecedented and unexpected and yet seemingly destined victory makes great icing for the cake. You needn't be a rugby fan, I am, you don't have to have been in South Africa when Mandela was released, I was, to enjoy this book. I sent it to my mother, father and step daughter and they all liked it. Don't miss it.
Whymsy More than 1 year ago
Masterful This is book is about more than a sports story. This is a story of human depravity and greatness. As well choreographed as any truly great Hollywood film (and incidentally turned into a movie with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon) or magnificent epic novel. Beautifully written and told with heartfelt sincerity this book completely captivated me even though I already knew the ending. I was riveted with each turn of the page, waiting in eager anticipation to see how the final triumph was brought into fruition. With the effortless flow of the narrative Carlin delicately unfurls the story like a blooming flower with each page coming together to create a colorful and deliciously scented bloom. Carlin masterfully orchestrates the different firsthand accounts and different viewpoints to put a together a fairly complete picture of the lead up to the South African hosted Rugby World Championship and the crowning jewel of Mandela’s presidentship. He lays out enough background to help us understand how incredible this turn of events were and gives enough individual stories to get the real impact of the situation. His compassion for all sides allows him to understand the differing viewpoints and pass that understanding onto us. Mandela is sketched as a clever, deliberate, politically savvy man raised up for just such a time in his country’s history to help it navigate the choppy waters of fear and impatience. Mandela is a genius; he knew where he wanted to take his country, found a means to get there, and convinced people from very fragmented groups to help implement a plan of action. “One Team, One Country” was not only the motto for the Springboks, but for every South African. Now granted the road from there has been bumpy for the country, but that should not take away from what it has accomplished and can accomplish in the future.
Word-Nerd More than 1 year ago
When Nelson Mandela became the first democratically elected president of South Africa, the country was still deeply divided by the legacy of apartheid. This book tells the heartwarming story of how the Mandela used his considerable charm and charisma to rally blacks and whites around a game of rugby -- specifically the 1995 World Cup championship match between South Africa and New Zealand. I knew very little about South African politics (and even less about rugby!) before reading this book, but the author provided just enough background to make me appreciate the enormity of Mandela's challenge. This wonderful human interest story is a real winner. (I understand the book has been optioned to Hollywood, with Morgan Freeman slated to star. Is that perfect casting or what?)
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read Bill Keller¿s review in the 'NY Times' and thought, wow, this sounds great. I picked it up and found it a terrific story, told dramatically and well. I thought, at first, not being a student of modern South Africa to any great extent, that the portrait of Mandela as this nearly omnipotent force for moral good was a bit overplayed. But as the story progressed, Carlin made his case. I am someone who¿s worked in progressive politics for some time, and I¿m a rugger, so there¿s a lot of resonance in this book for me. Some of the vignettes are terrific: Desmond Tutu stranded in San Francisco and desperately seeking a bar where he can watch the final match Mandela in prison teaching himself Afrikaans and Afrikaner history the largely apolitical and almost entirely Boer rugby team learning the liberation song, Nkosi Sikelele a black member of Mandela¿s presidential protection unit suggesting he wear the Springbok jersey to the final match and Mandela¿s reception from the fans at the match, almost all white, almost all Boers, chanting ¿Nelson, Nelson.¿ and the reaction of the Springbok manager: ¿It was the moment I realized that there really was a chance this country could work.¿ Great read! Pick it up. I can¿t wait for the movie in production now with Morgan Freeman as Mandela, Matt Damon as the Springbok captain, and directed by Clint Eastwood.
bruchu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A storyline that needed to be told, John Carlin explores the intersection of the end of apartheid with the World Cup of Rugby held in South Africa for the first time since being boycotted by the rest of the world. "Playing the Enemy" is a story about politics, sports, and how a nation divided by race, attempted to reconcile its segregated past and come together in a patriotic display of support for their team, the Springboks.Carlin sets up the book with a tremendous amount of detail on the major historical events that preceded the end of apartheid including biographical accounts of Nelson Mandela, the Upington 14, the murder of Chris Hani, and much more.Sports and politics are always mixed together into the cultural fabric of a nation. Rugby in South Africa shares a unique past. As "the opium of the boer," rugby was traditionally the most segregated of all sports in South Africa, it represented the worst of humanity, of the tyranny and endemic white racism that oppressed the black majority. It was therefore significant that Rugby was the sport that would bring the 2 sides together. Mandela understood this, and so therefore Rugby was a critical component in his plan for the healing process. The following quote encapsulates the spirit of the moment:"The symbolism at play was mind-boggling. For decades, Mandela stood for everything white South Africans most feared; the Springboks jersey had been the symbol, for even longer, of everything black South Africans most hated. Now suddenly, before the eyes of the whole of South Africa... the two negative symbols had merged to create a new one that was positive, constructive, and good. Mandela had wrought the transformation, becoming the embodiment not of hate and fear, but generosity and love." (p 223)The book is definitely more political background than it is sports. If you're looking for more information about Rugby, the 2005 World Cup, and how they won, "Playing the Enemy" will disappoint. If you're looking for a primer on the life of Nelson Mandela, why he was imprisoned, how he was released, how he became President, and the turmoil and near civil war that followed, this book is for you.
getupkid10 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Playing the enemy is the story of peace and reconciliation at the intersection of politics and sports. It tells the story of the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, and the nation's move towards democracy. It also tells the story of the Springbok rugby team, and their return to international rugby, culminating with the Boks unlikely victory in the 1995 RWC.In the 1980's, the Springboks, much like the people they represented, were the pariah of the rugby world. Their rivals, New Zealand and Australia, refused to play them for years because of Apartheid. This caused much consternation in the white community and on the team. The players were like many Afrikaaner: politically ignorant and rugby focused. Rugby was the religion of the Afrikaners and the symbol of Apartheid for much of the black community. After the election in 1994, Mandela knew how important the games were to making "one country". Mandela met with the team and convinced the black community to cheer for the team, and the team learned the anthem Nkosi Sikele, visited Robben Island and played rugby with children in the township. These experiences, coupled with their victories in the tournament made the players realize the important role they played reconciling the nation.Overall, the book is a beautiful, heart warming, if not mildly simplistic story of what sport can do for a country.
ACQwoods on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was the basis for the recent movie Invictus, which I had seen and enjoyed. The book is less rugby-focused than the movie and focuses more on the political challenges Nelson Mandela faced in ending apartheid in South Africa. I learned a lot about the process which I had never known before. At times the author seemed to be so enamored of Mandela that he lost his way in explaining how this man changed his country, but that is a small complaint. Having seen the movie and read the book, I was impressed (for the most part) with how true to life the movie was. I recommend them both! (Note: apparently the book has been re-released under the title Invictus, but the content remains the same.)
Jcambridge on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For those with an interest in South Africa and the struggles against apartheid, this will be an interesting and worthwhile read. The movie version of the book was somewhat disappointing -- the producers surely could have found some South African actors to play the lead roles! They also might have drawn a larger audience if they'd gone with the book titled rather than with "Invictus".
madknitta on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An inspiring story of how one man's persistence in his vision for South Africa won over the nation. The cynical scholar in me wants Carlin to be a little less fawning in his portrait of Mandela---this is an unabashed hagiography---but my better angels tell me to let it be: we don't always have to tear people down in the name of "academia." And, I'll admit, I teared up in the final chapters---even though I knew how it ended! The writing, however, is often awkward and overwrought. Whether stretching a metaphor or twisting a sentence, Carlin can never leave the language well enough alone.
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