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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forging a National Consciousness through Mutual Respect
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...
Published on 29 Sep 2008 by Donald Mitchell

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars At times staggers under the weight of its liberal pieties
This is an interesting book. But it's also a rather simplistic book. It serves up too many lazy stereotypes. It seems that Carlin has yet to meet an Afrikaner who doesn't warrant the prefix "brutish". Nor has he yet met an Afrikaner who doesn't sport an enormous beer belly and wear a safari suit. They all drink brandy and coke and munch on boerewors. The typical Afrikaner...
Published on 5 May 2010 by Frederick St John Smythe


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5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely awesome, 13 Jun 2010
Beautiful book, fascinating subject matter. I bought the book because I loved the film so much and wanted to know more of the detail behind the story. The film left me with a massive lump in my throat at times but I was amazed to find that the book did as well.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 14 May 2010
This is a superb story. If it wasn't true you'd think it was far-fetched. I think the success of the book is the fact that we are given a snippet of South African history in such a crucial period without the typical academic information overloading. The moral integrity and political astuteness of Nelson Mandela is mind-blowing. You can almost feel the man's aura when reading.

After just over 300 pages you will feel, on effort, like you've read less than 200. However, on getting a flavour of Nelson Mandela and South African at the time it will feel more like 500.

You don't need to have any knowledge or liking for Rubgy to love this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read, 5 Dec 2014
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As a rugby supporter I bought this book hoping to learn a bit more about the Springboks' World Cup victory over NZ. The book delivered so much more. I would recommend this book to everyone. No matter your interests you'll love this story!!!.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Incomplete but wonderful anyway, 20 May 2009
By 
M. Ryan (UK) - See all my reviews
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Anyone who was there for that final in '95 might well cry as I did over the team's passion for learning the new SA anthem, about Mandela's link to the song "Shosholoza," and much more. The intro is a classic - asking Mandela's blessing for the book - and even when the structure becomes tangled half-way through, John Carlin's love for Mandela shines through. The climax is very emotional.
My only problems with the book related to the way the subject is sanitised for the sake of that emotional pull. The NZ team were poisoned before the final but we never hear about NZ team members dashing for the toilet during the game - which happened. We never hear how "Shosholoza" was pumped through the tannoy during the game, and how controversial that was. We never hear about the true extent of the violence between Inkatha and ANC.
However, even if Carlin has rewritten history, he has also revealed so much of the inside story that I found the book to be a delight and a very moving one at that. What he ignores is outweighed by what he delivers. Overall, then, the book is a triumph.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and Carlin achieves the impossible - he makes the most loved man in the world - Nelson Mandela - become loved even more.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes Sports and Politics should mix., 7 Mar 2010
As a rugby fan and someone interested in human rights, the story of South Africa is a naturally very interesting. I read the fantastic 'Long Walk to Freedom' but noticed that Rugby doesn't get any mention so I was naturally very enthusiastic about reading: 'Playing the Enemy' as I remember only too well the '95 World Cup final and the highly emotive scene of Nelson Mandela's wearing of the Springbok jersey as he handed the William Web Ellis trophy to Francois Pienaar.

The book's principle focus is Mandela's tactical embracing of the South African rugby team and how it assuaged the fears of the Afrikaners as the cruel era of apartheid had come to end. The Afrikaners were terrified that nothing but revenge would be on the minds of 90% of the population who for so long they had inhumanely treated. As Arnold Stofile put rugby was "the opium for the Boer" so by seeing someone who as leader of the people who they repressed (and who some in their perverse logic saw as a terrorist) throw his full support behind the Springboks, Mandela managed to capture the hearts of his enemy. He also managed to to sow the seeds of forgiveness as the entire country followed a team which adopted the slogan: "One nation, One Team".

Mandela's reaching out is an inspirational act of forgiveness when one considers the long litany of cruel legislation and disguising treatment the black people of South Africa endured. Even the Afrikaners principle religion, the Dutch Reformed Church supported apartheid with publications such as: 'Biblical Aspects of Apartheid' -1958 which went so far as to argue scriptural support for separate rooms for the whites in Heaven.
But this story isn't just about personal forgiveness. Naturally the policial situation was volatile and sensitive and what Madela was doing involved huge risks. The book captures this regard very well by detailing the ambitions of radical groups such as the Volksfront who wished for a Afrikaner Boerstaat ( a la Israel). Their escapades had at one stage South Africa quite close to a full scale civil war. Assassinations of leading political figures also prompted several crisis moments. This includes Chris Hani and also Professor Johan Heyns who was a former pillar of the Apartheid establishment but had seen the errors of his way. Such moments prompted Mandela amongst other things to do a U-Turn on the dropping of the Springboks name. In all these crucial and very brave decision Mandela was vindicated and proved to have shown incredible acumen of the human spirit.

The only criticism I have of this book is that I think it is simplistic to put Mandela's achievements as a politician down to his tactical acceptance and support of rugby. There are other factors. Such as his adoption of neo-liberal policies meant those who had the wealth kept it instead of South Africa's traditional wealth resources of diamonds and gold being nationalised. John Pilger covers that argument very well. But overall, it's a very stimulating and thought provoking read. Mandela certainly proves the exception to proverbial maxim that sports and politics should never mix.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best book ever written about sport, 18 Sep 2014
By 
Eleanor Hamilton "mini_hamilton" (England, UK) - See all my reviews
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Wonderful book. Absolutely fascinating and eye-opening despite the fact I lived there at the time.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 26 Mar 2010
'Don't address their brains, address their hearts!' What a book, I nominated this in my book club as I only knew the basics about Mandela. I feel I have a much greater understanding now of not only what a unique and fantastic man he is but also of the South African people. They are all truly inspirational. It's not just a rugby book, it's an education in patience, peace, politics,respect strength, understanding, fear, acceptance and a real feel good book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 11 Oct 2014
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Very stirring stuff, lead actors as reliable as ever.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Book of 2009, 6 Oct 2010
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This book has now been renamed Invictus following the Film. It is the best I have read of its kind. Politics, Sport and Nelson Mandela and it is true. I was enthrawled ,really well written and gives a real insight into how Mandela pulled off the probably the biggest political triumph of the 20th century. John Carlin had great access to Mandela and he has written an amazing book worthy of the subject. I cannot recommend it more highly.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much more than rugby, 22 July 2009
By 
S. P. Massei "Seb" (London) - See all my reviews
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A very intimate account of the events that propelled Mandela to power.
I enjoyed it greatly. I have to confess that I was hooked by the rugby theme. However I was positively surprise. The events around the RWC final are also covered from an interesting angle. Carlin had access to important information and was direct witnes of the events. All of that supported by key interviews.
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