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

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  2,631 ratings  ·  398 reviews
A 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.

In 1985, Nelson Mandela, then in prison for twenty-three years, set about winning over the fiercest proponents of apartheid, from his jailers to the head of South Africa'
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 14th 2008 by Penguin Press HC, The (first published January 1st 2008)
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92nd out of 1,074 books — 1,060 voters
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1st out of 22 books — 6 voters

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The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon)
I'm not going to belabor the point here, as I ususally do.

We often act, despite everyone's acknowledgement to the contrary, as if our generation invented racism, homosexuality, godlessness, greed, gluttony, and, sometimes hate. If we don't buy in to that common portrayal of who caued history's woes we sometimes still seem to see these things as "ours to fix" and take ownership where it's difficult to establish who is responsible for what. "We must stop this NOW!" yet, if the problem has lasted f
Petra X
Nelson Mandela is my hero. Rugby is my game (I'm from the South Wales valleys, 'nuff said).

Simply the best book I've read all year, it was absolutely awesome. Mandela's methods for disarming and charming everyone were inspirational - this is the only inspirational book I've read (I can't get into that genre at all).

I've just been chucked out without notice from a private group 'Back in Skinny Jeans' on Goodreads where some member/s don't like non-Americans, non-Republicans, non-Christians and
Good if flawed account of Mandela's struggle to unify South Africa. The author did a good job in showing how tenuous the country was during Mandela's term as president and Mandela"s role in stabilizing a very dangerous period in history. However there are just too many flaws in this book to thoroughly enjoy it. First, there is the formal and stiff writing style of the author. It tends to be unfocused in describing the events. Secondly, while The author sincerely admires Mandela, and there is muc ...more
1994 was a critical year for South Africa. A president had been elected by almost two-thirds of voters in the first truly democratic, one-person, one-vote elections the country had ever had. Tensions were simmering just barely under the surface, not infrequently erupting into violent neighborhood rallies, bloody skirmishes, and even assassination. Many of the white Afrikaner minority were worried about reprisals from the black majority, some of whom were undoubtedly eager for revenge or at least ...more
Basically put, Nelson Mandela is the MAN. We tend to reduce people to symbols, to say-- oh yeah, him, he's the guy that did this, or she's the "that" girl, or whatnot. And that was basically the nature of my knowledge of Mandela-- a vague sense of his wisdom and love of freedom or something.
I don't know if this is the best book ever written about Mandela. But reading it definitely has given me a fuller appreciation of a man I had once thought of only as a symbol. He is a master manipulator, ambi
Fascinating. I'm a huge rugby fan and I have a strong interest in SA politics. I've read Mandela's autobiography, but this was a close-up on a short period of time, with a different focus. I've seen the footage of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, and I've heard firsthand accounts of the way it brought the country together, but this book gave me a new perspective on the attitudes pre-Mandela. It shows the vision that Mandela had of sport as a unifier, the chances that he took, and the dramatic changes t ...more
This book is both inspiring and boring. If you want to know about how South Africa was able to avert THE civil war that all the experts proclaimed was inevitable then read this book. If you want to know about rugby and the game then don't read this book. This book is a "paean" to Nelson Mandela, who was truly the right man at the right time in the right place. Mandela makes Clinton and Reagan look like lightweights with his ability to charm,rebound, and chart the right course at critical decisio ...more
Cath Duncan
Nelson Mandela is the epitome of Agile Living and Agile Leadership, which is essentially about living in a way that exercises your freedom and expands freedom for others. Exercising your mental and emotional freedom is the foundation of Agile Living and creating all the other types of freedom that you might want for yourself and the people around you. In spite of having many of his freedoms severely constrained and restricted, and having his loved ones tortured and killed in terrible ways, Nelso ...more
'Playing the Enemy' is one of those non-fiction pieces that you scarcely would have allowed yourself to believe to be true, lest you know it was. It is also one of these texts that you pick up, completely prepared for on subject, and soon you are delivered something that you did not expect.

The novel follows the famous south African Nelson Mandela, president, human rights activist and, as accordance to the subject matter of the book, a dedicated rugby fan. The first half, if not more, of the book
I had tears in my eyes remembering that incredible day in Johannesburg as if it were yesterday. I remember during the rugby World Cup final that the streets were eerily silent as every South African sat rapt in front of their television, hoping against all hope that our team could accomplish the impossible. I was 12 years old as I sat with my dad, all nerves and raw emotion, watching the game. The joy that erupted in the streets after we won is a sight I will never forget. The whole country, bla ...more
The author is a journalist - if you are a fast reader you will speed through this book. Reading more like a longer magazine article, Carlin lays an informative foundation of the events leading to Mandela's release from prison and his vision to unite South Africa through rugby. If you do not know anything about this event, I would say it's a must-read - if you do have knowledge of the event or are into heavy non-fiction it may be on the lighter-reading side; but it doesn't take anything away from ...more
Dec 12, 2010 smetchie marked it as to-read

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
4.5 stars

This is not just a book about a rugby game that made a nation, it's also about uniting white and black people in a nonracist attitude. It's a tale about forgiving, developing new ways of thinking. It's a tale about a great man who had the courage to do what nobody else had ever thought of doing, who achieved what nobody else had ever wanted to achieve. The book has an energy of its own just like Mandela had. This book has strenght in its words - so much so that towards the end I almost
Barbara Burd
This book is our campus' Big Read for the fall semester, so while reading,it, I tried to imagine how it would be received by our incoming freshmen. While the life of Mandela is well-known to many, I'm not sure he is familiar to the typical first-year student. The author Carlin is an accomplished journalist and his writing reflects that. His work is well-researched and his access to Mandela lends authority to the book. The book increased my understanding of the many levels of racial tension in So ...more
Like a lot of books I end up reading, I saw the film first. The film was average at best (and the rugby scenes were very poor in my opinion), so it wasn't hard to beat by the book. That being said, the book doesn't surpass the film in the way it told the same story, the book surpasses the book in that it interweaves more storylines, more subplots and more characters into this fascinating story. After reading this book -- which is fascinating for multiple reasons including geopolitics, race relat ...more
August 17, 2008
Entering the Scrum
Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation
By John Carlin
Illustrated. 274 pp. The Penguin Press. $24.95

The heart-lifting spectacle of South Africa’s first free election in April 1994 was, for Nelson Mandela and his followers, a triumph unimaginably sweet, but perilously incomplete. Mandela was keenly aware that his party’s victory, secured by a landslide of black votes, lacked the endorsement of alienated whites, and that whites
Nora Lockett
I became interested in this book in a very roundabout way. I am a fan of rugby, and the South African team the Springboks in particular, and picked up this book for that reason. I was not prepared for the sheer power of what I read. I must say that I never realized how very evil apartheid was until I read the details in this book. For part of the time, tears streamed down my face as I grieved the injustices suffered by the black African people of South Africa. Central to the book is the one inju ...more
What started as a great book took me a long time to actually finish. I mean there was no suspense or no surprise at the end, anyone who knows anything about rugby knows the All Blacks lost the world cup in 1995...or hence the Springbok won.

Something just didn't sit right for me through the book, I honestly don't know much about Mandela or South Africa in general at the time, but this book didn't make me want to know more.

I struggled to understand how the South Africian rugby team could not get t
President Mandela:
I must apologize. Living in South Africa when you were let out of prison, I saw propganda on t.v. and assumed it must be true. Reading this book helped me to see how wonderful you really are. It really changed my opinion of you and I will be forever grateful.
It really took me back to my time in the M.T.C. when they taught us "culture classes"-- courses designed to help us relate to the Afrikaaner culture and understand them better. I felt like they helped a lot and I was sad wh
Tracy Best
An incredible book; I can't wait to see the movie now. I'd always heard about apartheid, of course, but I apparently never really "got" it. I was entirely overwhelmed just reading about the tasks: Liberate the black from bondage AND liberate the white from fear.

The black population was understandably angry...which often led to violence.

The white population was fearful...which often led to violence.

There was no trust, no communication, and a whole lot of misunderstanding.

Not only did he succeed,
I read this book under its new name "Invictus" then I watched the movie carrying the same name. Carlin sheds light on the role of sport in mitigating and resolving conflicts. Unlike the movie, the book goes deep into the roots of the apartheid regime of South Africa and the struggle of Nelson Mandela to claim the rights of the black people. Nevertheless, I think that Carlin was professionally neutral in his description of events. It is a very enlightening book written in a beautiful style.
És un panegíric, si. Però qui pot resistir-se a una personalitat com la de Mandela? Carlin el va tractar en profunditat, i és comprensible que hagi caigut rendit als seus encants. La història és magnífica i mereixia ser explicada de la manera com ho fa Carlin. Si t'agrada la llibertat, gaudiràs amb aquest llibre. Si a més a més també t'agrada el rugbi, aleshores et fascinarà!
May 23, 2012 Neera rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: neera
"Mandela's weakness was his greatest strength. He succeeded because he chose to see good in people who ninety-nine people out of a hundred would have judged to have been beyond redemption...Yet Mandela zeroed in on that hidden kernel where their better angels lurked and drew out the goodness that is inside all people." (page 252)

-A very inspiring read!
Playing the Enemy is an amazing story of how Nelson Mandela used a rugby match to unite post-apartheid South Africa. The country's white Afrikaaners are mad about rugby in much the same way Americans are obsessed with football. Blacks, on the other hand, viewed rugby - and in particular the national Springbok team - as a hated symbol of an oppressive regime. (The international boycott of the Springboks had effectively banned South Africa from playing outside their own country and helped to unite ...more
María Claudia Gazabon
Otra lectura excelente del 2012, en español se llama "El factor humano". El genio de Mandela para resolver una situación tan crítica en su país y llevarlo a la paz y a la unión es impresionante. La lectura se hace fácil y adictiva (termine en 3 días). Para quienes se vieron la película "Invictus", el libro es una excelente adición.
Finally gave up on this one, since the writing is egregious. Historically rich, but severely dry. I haven't been that bored since reading all of those "so-and-so begat so-and-so"s in the Old Testament. I might have hung in there if I didn't have so many other exciting books waiting for my attention.
Erich Strelow
I read this book some years ago after hearing a radio interview with the author. I think the movie was in development stage then and by the time I was reading the book it came out.
As some reviewers stated, the first half is devoted to display a landscape of SA politics and conflicts around 1993 and the second half is devoted to the rugby world cup. The whole book has the approach of showing Mandela's character through this story.
It's the story that's so appealing to me. The sole idea that a rugb
Margie schlenoff
A highly engaging account of how Nelson Mandela employed the universal appeal of a national sport (rugby) to avoid a civil war in South Africa. You don't need to be interested in sports or even Africa to love this's a spellbinding look at unique leadership in action.
Nice viewpoint into the genius of Mandela as well as his conversion of many, black and white. Basis for the movie Invictus. I haven't seen the movie yet, but suspect the scope of the book is much broader than that of the movie. Rugby is central, but less so, in the book.
I'm embarrassed about how little I know of apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa and Nelson Mandela. This book was captivating,not only for the rugby, but also for what I learned about this era. WOW...eye-opening! I hope the movie captures the energy of this book.
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“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, the power to unite people that little else has...It is more powerful in govenments in breaking down racial barriers.” 10 likes
“Your freedom and mine cannot be seperated” 7 likes
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