John Carlin

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

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Book FormatPaperback
AuthorJohn Carlin
Publication DateMarch, 2010
Carlin pens this thrilling, inspiring account of one of the greatest charm offensives in history--Nelson Mandela's decade-long campaign to unite his country, beginning in his jail cell and ending with a rugby tournament.

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Carlin pens this thrilling, inspiring account of one of the greatest charm offensives in history--Nelson Mandela's decade-long campaign to unite his country, beginning in his jail cell and ending with a rugby tournament.
Carlin pens this thrilling inspiring account of one of the greatest charm offensives in history--Nelson Mandela's decade-long campaign to unite his country beginning in his jail cell and ending with a rugby tournament.


Book Format
Number of Pages
John Carlin
Playing the Enemy
Publication Date
March, 2010
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
7.80 x 5.08 x 0.91 Inches

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Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

The story begins by in...

The story begins by introducing what Nelson Mandela is like and who he was. It talks a bit about his usual routine and how it had differed the morning of the rugby match where South Africa would compete against New Zealand in the finals of the Rugby World Cup. It then tells of some people who affected his life and their opinions of the day. Next the story tells of how he had created a violent organization that was against the idea that wanted to end the apartheid. After being jailed, this violence changed and he became a peaceful, easier going man. He used the great charisma he had and the skills of his previous jobs to allow him to go through prison much more easily and arrange meetings with some political leaders in order to fulfill his new goal of becoming the first black president of South Africa. His goal, after using his charisma to get on good terms with Kobie Coestsee, a man who had first met Mandela while he was in the hospital, he next sought to charm P. W. Botha, the president of South Africa at the time. Mandela's goal at the time, for the most part, was for a peaceful end to the apartheid at the very least. He wanted and hoped to attain equality in the segregated nation. Once again, Mandel did well with impressing those who had previously been against his acts. This activated Mandela's next step to leave jail and work his charms on all whites of South Africa. About a quarter of the way through the book, François Pienaar, a man who was the captain of the Springboks and a man who would help, when Mandela became president, to bring unification of all South Africans by him along with team. As it turns out, François was never really interested and understanding of politics. He had always in younger years thought of rugby as just a sport and enjoyed violence for the sake of violence. This was great due to the fact that rugby is quite a violent sport that was thought to be savage. On February 11, 1990, Mandela was finally released from his sentence and left to make a speech as a free man. This he failed to arrive on time for and fell short of what was expected. He made up for this with a speech at a press conference to charm the world with his charisma, once again taking stage to make a better country. This conference caused some white Africans to believe that a black man would be capable of this internal dispute. Pienaar, who had been watching, no matter how much he wasn't interested in politics, had been touched by what Mandela had said. Within a month of getting out of prison, Mandela was once again placed in prison, this time with a death sentence. Mandela, in the end, was not executed and was then released from prison. After that, many struggles of the white Africans and black Africans continued and even turned against whites who supported Mandela and his goal for a peaceful end to the fighting and separation. He then started his campaign to become the president of South Africa. Running against F.W. de Klerk, he had initially had little chance at winning. De Klerk would often be better prepared than Mandela and was winning the political campaign since near the beginning. A few days after a debate, De Klerk admitted that he believed that Mandela was a great opponent. Mandela won thanks to the fact that 89% of the votes were that of black Africans. Because of him coming into office, many whites originally thought that they would have to leave. Mandela was able to convince once again his powers of charisma by presenting himself as the kind old man that he was. Mandela and Pienaar finally meet when Mandela calls upon Pienaar for a meeting that would use rugby to unite the separated nation. This was influenced by the first meeting between Mandela and Pienaar where Mandela mentioned the power to influence people, the greatest weapon when being a politician. During the first game of the Rugby World Cup, many people disagreed with the idea of supporting the Springboks because they were a great symbol for the white side of the war on the apartheid. For this, Mandela was booed out of the stadium after having shook hands with each of the players. The key game in this way to uniting the two peoples of South Africa was the final game of the Rugby World Cup where the Springboks went against New Zealand. New Zealand, thought by many to be the likely winner, was quite terrifying and rough with the game. This win, in the end, was the greatest unification process between the two different races. This enrapture towards the game caused many people to become proud of what they believed was a symbol of their previous oppressors. Nelson Mandela succeeded in doing what was thought impossible. I found that this book was very moving and gave a very understandable perspective on the life of how black Africans were thanks to the apartheid. This book put Nelson Mandela in the light that he deserved for achieving something that had once been thought to be so impossible. This book was a great read that showed the raw emotion which caused the change in South Africa.

Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

Playing the enemy is t...

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.

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

For those with an inte...

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".

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

Excellent easy read de...

Excellent easy read describing the role rugby played in the peaceful transition of South Africa towards democracy. A fascinating insight into characters that South Africans would know but perhaps not in this much detail. The political events of this time are well described and he captures the prevalent feelings of the times well. People ask where were you when....? I can vividly remember where I was when Chris Hani's death was reported. It was a critical moment in South Africa's history.

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

This book was the basi...

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.)

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