Playing the Enemy is a very timely book. In these days when nations are often more divided than before, Nelson Mandela's instinct to show respect, friendliness, and common purpose with those who saw him as an enemy is a beacon that lights up the potential for all people to come together to accomplish more. John Carlin has used the Rugby World Cup imaginatively to illustrate the essence of President Mandela's approach. Mr. Carlin is a wonderful story teller, and you'll feel chills as you read the many great moments he brilliantly captures in Playing the Enemy.
Leaders have always used foreign enemies to bring their purpose together. Who realized that this could be done at the level of sport rather than through war as a way to unify a country where people were deeply suspicious (even paranoid) about one another?
I was glad to see that Mr. Carlin provided lots of background about how someone imprisoned for decades became the leader of a reconstituted nation in South Africa and went on to accomplish things that not even the most optimistic would have expected. President Mandela's story is one for the ages, and this way of telling the story makes it easier to understand for those who never saw South Africa during the Apartheid regime.
Although I had long studied and worked to help change the government in South Africa from the inside and outside, the political impact of the international boycott of the South African rugby team had been lost to me. I hope those who would like to encourage governments to behave more appropriately towards their people will remember this example.
Bravo, Mr. Carlin!