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

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  4,235 ratings  ·  544 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, 274 pages
Published August 14th 2008 by Penguin Press
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Charlene Michelle Well, the movie skips a lot of details that are super important like what happend while Mandela was in jail, the ANC being Communist, and so on, there…moreWell, the movie skips a lot of details that are super important like what happend while Mandela was in jail, the ANC being Communist, and so on, there is so much information, I recomend to read it if you want to get more knowledge from the past Africa or for an asignment of history.(less)

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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
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
Nov 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
May 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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
Jul 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: meridian, non-fiction
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
Mar 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 11, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Nov 07, 2010 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:
Dec 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: hist-misc
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
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Carlin quotes Albert Camus as writing that 27 years in prison makes a man a killer, or a weakling, or a combination of both. How, then, did Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in a South African prison escape this fate and become the leader who united blacks and whites in that previously apartheid country? To have that question answered was one reason I read this book (aside from having it selected in a book group). I knew of Nelson Mandela’s success i but I knew little of how he accomplished this ...more
Rishi Prakash
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am so thankful to my dear friend who got me this book knowing that i will LOVE it.

It is such a moving, touching and inspirational book that you just have to read it. This is the story of Nelson Mandela's rise to the presidency of South Africa, and the power of love (and rugby) to unite a nation. I laughed. I cried. By the time I finished this book, my heart was filled with joy and a had a big smile on my face. This book and the true story is a proof, to me, that nothing - absolutely nothing -
Doreen Petersen
Was a good book and a good read.
Jul 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
'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
Cath Duncan
Jun 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nora Lockett
Nov 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
A great insight into the events that led up to the 1995 Rugby Worldcup, uniting a nation under Mandela. For some reason, I expected it to be more about the Springbok captain Pinaar and rugby but it was actually a portray of Mandela's last years in prison and the events leading up to his release and then later the 1994 elections. Really appreciated the insightful portrayal of Mandela as a man who created a new nation with fantastically clear and shrewed mind and a heart full of grace and love. Fi ...more
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
May 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-of-2010
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
Dec 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Neha Mehta
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a child of segregation, this book brings back some very real memories and emotions. It also shows the greatness that lives within all men. Nelson Mandela has always been one of my heroes and this book shows his understanding of human nature as well as his political acumen. He united the rainbow nation at a time whenever everyone thought it would go the way of so many of the other African countries. This was an extremely powerful and humane story. It showed the power of understanding your enem ...more
I just love that book!!!!
First because it is about rugby, a sport I really enjoy. And also because it is about Nelson Mandela, a man who succeeded to save a country from civil war. He was a hero and a great man. Instead of choosing the easy option and go to war, he made peace with the enemies.
I watched the movie first and I really loved it but I didn't know there was a book about it. And when I found it I thought it would talk a lot about rugby but on the contrary! You learn so much more about
Bruno Borges
Dec 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was a great book, I've seen the movie based on book before and that motivated me to read the book, the first half of the book is good, talking about the background events into the Mandela's inauguration presidency, his release, the race conflicts in South Africa, when the history gets the World Cup climax, it becomes thrilling! Sometimes I cant believe that is about real history. I strongly recommend this book.
May 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
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!
Oct 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Playing The Enemy is a journalistic popular narrative of the impact of the 1995 Rugby World Cup Championship in forming a post-Apartheid South African nationalism, and the efforts of Nelson Mandela embracing white dominated rugby in order to avert a civil war. John Carlin, who is a longtime British journalist, centered the story on Nelson Mandela’s journey from resistance fighter, to longtime political prisoner who was the symbol of Apartheid repression, to the President of a fledgling multirac ...more
Aug 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was such an inspiring story about Nelson Mandela and how South Africa was unified after apartheid. Only the last couple chapters are about the world cup rugby championship game and how it sealed the unification.
My favorite quotes:
"No amount of negotiations, speeches, constitutions would suffice in themselves to make South Africans. You needed something else to bring people together. You needed Mandela to do what he did best: rise above our differences, be bigger than those things that div
Clinton Hutchings
I don't know much about rugby, South Africa, apartheid or Nelson Mandela's story. This book provided me with a good working knowledge of all of these topics. Phenomenal story of reconciliation and forgiveness. It gives me a little hope for the future, for what could happen, on a big scale. But I think you'd really need someone like Mandela to orchestrate it - otherwise, unfortunately, civil war, prejudice and racism will rule the day. Anyway, amazes me that sport can be so influential in bringin ...more
Jon Gaide
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Captivating read providing insight and many parallels to the racial discrimination in America today
Libby Chapman
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The skill of the author is such that although I knew the outcome of the game and am not a sports fan, I felt such joy and expectation throughout the book. In essence, it is a story of real leadership and acceptance of others.
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