How we missed Madiba

It’s a strange feeling to watch the United States celebrate our heroes more effectively than we can.

My father mailed me the link to the Arthur Ashe Courage Award presentation to Nelson Mandela which happened on the 19th July as part of the annual ESPY awards. If you haven’t seen it then stop reading now and watch. It’s electric and I guarantee even the most emotionally disconnected will feel a tear well up in their eyes.

I got curious about why I hadn’t heard about this prestigious award. I’ve been traveling and hit the ground running after my winter break (hence not much Thought Leader blogging). Thinking I may have missed the coverage, I searched the websites of the major English newspapers in South Africa.

Google showed the following results:

Mail & Guardian
Your search – “nelson mandela” “arthur ashe courage award” site:www.mg.co.za – did not match any documents.

Sunday Times
Your search – “nelson mandela” “arthur ashe courage award” site:www.sundaytimes.co.za – did not match any documents.

The only English paper to carry the story was the Independent. Why would this be? Why are we not celebrating our most famous citizen as he gets recognised internationally for his bravery and strategic brilliance?

The footage on YouTube, introduced by Barack Obama and presented by Venus and Serena Williams, takes you back to a different time in South Africa. The 1995 Rugby World Cup was set against a backdrop of violence and uncertainty in the years before. Hope emerged, at least for a moment, as we all dropped our guard and rallied around the boys.

As is usual for an American TV production, this ten minute segment is powerful, real and emotional. Unlike some US productions, it isn’t over the top.

Can you remember what you were doing on those days when we beat Australia in the opening game, beat France in the semifinal and then the big game against New Zealand? Prompted by the video, I remembered each occasion vividly.

Today I browsed Mark Keohane’s gushing account of the rugby world cup 2007 “Champions of the World: Seven Magnificent Weeks”. The book documents the Springboks second World Cup win. While a fantastic achievement, the 2007 win wasn’t quite the same as ‘95. This means we have to look harder for these special moments.

Have a watch and then pass it on. We can’t afford to miss celebrating and feeling proud of Madiba and our rugby heroes.

The powerful catalyst that was created through a leaders’ foresight and a game of rugby is worth spreading. We’ll find more of these moments over the years ahead and they will help us re-build our country.

Don’t worry about the newspapers, they’ll catch up and start reporting the things that really matter; when we make them matter.