The universally admired political and culture figure certainly had ties to sport, as he understood the power that comes with athletic competition — notably soccer and rugby.
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does,” Mandela famously said. “It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”
The Nelson Mandela Challenge is an annual soccer match between South Africa and an invited visiting team — Nigeria (2013), Zambia (2012), Ivory Coast (2011), United States (2010) being the four most recent to be invited. The U.S. also competed in the 2007 Challenge and beat the hosts 1-0 in both appearances. The challenge raises money for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.