Here’s an image of the great Nelson Mandela on the day of his release from prison. Those images of him strolling down the road proudly will never fade. He could have been a bitter man but with massive grace and statesmanship he went on to repair a broken country and create a rainbow nation. Frankly only he could have done it and in doing so he became a hero to the world. His passing leaves an unfillable void.
Sport played a key part of course in helping him create bonds across the white and black communities and, fittingly, this morning I listened to a number of tributes to him on Talksport Radio. I wasn’t expecting profundity and eloquence on the Richard Dimbleby scale but I was rather taken aback to hear regular broadcaster Alan Brazil announce that they were going over for a few words on the great man from former England international Emile Heskey. Emile can-hardly-string-two-words-together frigging Heskey!! Emile, it turns out, was one of the few members of the England team who could be bothered to go and meet the iconic leader before a friendly match against South Africa. But at least he did. When Alan asked him for his thoughts on the significance of the meeting, Emile’s considered response was ‘It was nice’. ‘Ah that’s great Emile’ came Alan’s reply, ‘And I bet you’re looking forward to the World Cup draw later’….
There you go. Wisdom, soul, insight, emotional depth and perceptive probing; it was a classic example of the Talksport interview which is about as far from Frost meets Nixon as you can get. What was the point, what did we learn, why do I bother? I just don’t know. Mandela’s memory deserves better than this.