Dear President Mandela,
I would like to thank you for all that you have done for and with our country to bring blacks and whites together through many of different ways. As the captain of the South African Springboks rugby team, I would like to give you an even bigger thank you for what you have done with our team and for our team by getting the whole country to love and support the game but most especially… our team.
Our coach told us, when you were being let out of jail, “Remember boys, this is the day your country went to the dogs.” Nobody really said anything in response but we were all in agreement and we just stood there and watched your car drive in while all the black people across the street, playing soccer on their dirt field, were screaming and cheering for you because we finally had a black person in charge of the country. That shows how the whites were so against the black people and it was referring to the black people of our country as dogs and that they can’t do anything. If I could go back to that day, knowing what you did for our country now, I would have spoke to my coach about it in disagreement but as bad as it sounds I kind of believed it when he said it and agreed with him about our country going to fall apart.
I was told by a friend of mine that at the South African National Sports Council meeting, everyone voted to have the rugby team abolished. They took a vote and every single hand went up. Then you came and told them all that by taking away the rugby team it goes against everything you believe by making the country come together again and how treating us how we treated you won’t solve anything. The reason every hand raised at the first vote is because everyone on that council was black and wanted to get back on us because we treated you guys with such disrespect. They wanted to ruin the thing that we felt was most important to us which I understand. But a big thank you goes out to you for feeling differently and realizing we made a mistake by treating you all like that and being able to see change in the country because the only reason we won the Rugby World Cup is because we had our whole country together cheering and supporting us.
You called me personally and asked me to come and meet you at your office. You happened to call my house right after my dad had been talking about how our country is screwed and we will never be what you wanted us to be. I’ll be honest with you, when my sister was dropping me off at your building I was freaking out, I didn’t know what to say. As you and I started talking, I started to calm down a bit because you were just letting me know how supportive of the Springboks you are. It amazed me how you could still be so supportive of us after we threw you in jail and you had nothing to do for that whole time except think about how much you hate us. It also amazed me how not only did you want us to do well but you wanted the whole country to support us and come to cheer us on and hopefully that could be a way of bring the country back together again.
During a workout session, coach had told me to go into the locker room and tell the boys about the training sessions he wanted us to do around South Africa to work with other kids. When I told them, they all screamed at me saying it’s stupid and that the only reason I am saying this is because of the meeting that you and I had. These sessions we had around Africa was for us to see how other people in Africa lived and how it wasn’t all the same because some of the black children looked like they had it really rough but they didn’t know that because they had never seen anything different. It also made us appreciate that not all black people are bad. Whites all had this twisted theory that all black people are bad for some reason. These kids were all so innocent and hadn’t done anything to live like that but they didn’t seem to care. They all got super excited when they saw Chester come of the bus because Chester is the only black man on our team so it made them excited to see that Chester had the courage to do that and they knew Chester gave them hope for the future.
You had been the only thing I could think about the whole night before the biggest game of my life. The night before the Rugby World Cup Finals the only thing I could think about was when my team went to the jail that you stayed at and all I really wanted to see was your cell. I stood in your cell for the longest time just thinking to myself about how awful that must of been for you and right when you got out, you were willing to forgive and forget to try to make the country better. This made me feel awful about myself and made me mad at all of the white people in South Africa. That night, I knew that I should’ve been thinking about my game and how important it was for us to win for not only ourselves but for the entire country but for some reason the only thing I could think about was how we treated you and how I would do anything to fix that. It now is fixed because of you that the whole country is working together and skin color no longer matters.
The crowd at the Finals was absolutely amazing, everybody had the new flags that are representing the new country with both blacks and whites. Everyone also knew the national anthem and everyone from our country was cheering for us. Playing in this game was very exciting as a player because it was a huge model of how well our country can actually get along and come together and before when we thought we all had nothing in common, rugby seemed to be one of the first and strongest things we could have in common. After the game once we won, what seemed like everyone in the crowd as cheering for us and it was super exciting knowing that with the help of you we just changed the country in many ways.