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Ugandan sports will miss Mandela

By Vision Reporter

Added 7th December 2013 01:32 PM

Nelson Mandela has after a long illness passed on. He will indeed be buried but contrary to Mexican culture of one day being forgotten, his name will live on.

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Nelson Mandela has after a long illness passed on. He will indeed be buried but contrary to Mexican culture of one day being forgotten, his name will live on.

By James Bakama

There is this belief in Mexican culture that there are three stages of death.

The first stage is physical death, our last breath; the second is when our bodies are lowered into the earth; and the third is the last time our name is spoken, when there is no one left to remember us.

Nelson Mandela has after a long illness passed on. He will indeed be buried but contrary to Mexican culture of one day being forgotten, his name will live on.

In Uganda, Mandela is immortalized with the 40,202 Mandela National Stadium at Namboole. Schools and hotels have also been named.

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An aerial view of Mandela National Stadium.

In 1997, Uganda, one of the key countries in the fight against Apartheid, decided that there was no better way to remember this freedom fighter than naming its biggest sports facility after the great freedom fighter.

As nations scramble to honour Mandela in death, Uganda can at least take pride in the fact it went an extra mile in recognizing his works over a decade before his death.

The stadium was built with a grant of $36 million from the China. Originally it was called Namboole Stadium, getting its name from the hill on which it was built.

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President Museveni mingles with his guest Nelson Mandela at Namboole stadium in 1998.

It is now officially called Nelson Mandela Stadium though locals still call it Namboole. It was opened in 1997 with a concert by Lucky Dube, a reggae artist from South Africa.

Mandela was also an ardent sportsman. No wonder his last public appearance was at the opening ceremony of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa’s FNB stadium.

To Mandela, this was a dream come true. He was one of the figures that inspired FIFA into bringing one of the world’s biggest sports events to Africa.

He had earlier also been the top fan as the Bafana Bafana won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996. There couldn’t have been a better way to unite a country previously torn in Apartheid.

Mandela’s figure, in a rainbow jersey, was again vivid in the stands  as South Africa strode to the rugby World Cup title in Johannesburg the following year.

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South African rugby team captain Francois Pienaar is congratulated by Mandela after South Africa won the 1995 Rugby World Cup final against New Zealand in Johannesburg. PHOTO/AFP

But he was not merely a fan. He was an athlete. Even while he was imprisoned in an impossibly small cell on Robben Island, he maintained a physical-fitness regimen.

In his younger years, he was also a heavyweight boxer. In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela describes his love of boxing (and why he did it):

"I did not enjoy the violence of boxing so much as the science of it.  I was intrigued by how one moved one’s body to protect oneself, how one used a strategy both to attack and retreat, how one paced oneself over a match."

He described boxing is egalitarian. He noted that in the ring, rank, age, color, and wealth are irrelevant . . . “I never did any real fighting after I entered politics. My main interest was in training; I found the rigorous exercise to be an excellent outlet for tension and stress.”

He noted that after a strenuous workout, he felt both mentally and physically lighter.  “It was a way of losing myself in something that was not the struggle.”

He said that after an evening’s workout he would wake up the next morning feeling strong and refreshed, ready to take up the fight although he had boxed a bit at Fort Hare, it was not until I had lived in Johannesburg that he took up the sport in earnest.

“I was never an outstanding boxer. I was in the heavyweight division, and I had neither enough power to compensate for my lack of speed nor enough speed to make up for my lack of power.

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Galatasaray stars Emmanuel Eboue (L) and Didier Drogba, both from Ivory Coast, also paid tribute to Mandela. PHOTO/AFP

Mandela had considerable power, however, in other aspects of his life. One of his most-respected skills was the ability to maintain his dignity even in the face of unimaginable hardship.

In Uganda Mandela’s profound influence on sports in the nineties had clubs being named after South African revolutionaries like Chris Hani.

As the world grieves, Ugandans can at least take pride in the fact that it has something to always look to in remembrance of this great freedom fighter.

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French side Marseille's supporters hold a banner reading "Farewell Mandela" before the start of the French L1 football match. PHOTO/AFP

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ITALY: Bologna's players wear a jersey in honor of late former South Africa's President Nelson Mandela. PHOTO/AFP

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Castres' scrum half South African Rory Kockott (C), his teammate Richie Gray (L) and Dan Kirkpatrick (R) observe a minute of silence in tribute to Mandela. PHOTO/AFP

Ugandan sports will miss Mandela

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