Nelson Mandelas död påverkar alla i Sydafrika. För Alltid Fullsatt beskriver Stuart Baxter här – med sina egna ord – sitt möte med Mandela, som var en stor supporter av Kaizer Chiefs.
In 2005 in the lobby of a hotel in Zurich a newly appointed National coach waited anxiously to be presented to one of the greatest icons that has walked this planet . I saw Nelson Mandela walking towards me and almost held my breath in anticipation . As he reached me he smiled , offered me his hand and said that he had only heard good things about me. I breathed out and said that it was an honour to meet him and hoped that some of the ’Madiba magic’ would rub off on me. He put me immediately at ease but the power of this elderly mans aura was amazing and with great intensity I listened to every word of the next two or three minutes conversation with him was almost frightening. I can’t remember exactly what I said but by the time he wished me and OUR country good luck, I was almost hypnotised .
After meeting and exchanging ” coach talk ” before a couple of games the last time I met Madiba( his clan name which he is affectionately referred to) was before the Mandela cup final against Nigeria in 2006. He entered the pitch to meet the players of both teams who were lined up on the near touchline . A deafening blast of vuvuzelas greeted him and I watched and smiled from the bench as he shook hands with the players. The night was cold for South Africa and my assistant joked that we would need his magic to help us as the last four games had finished 4-0, 4-0, 4-0 , 4-0!! I thanked him for his optimism and reached for my bench coat. As I turned back to look at the lads an official came racing towards our bench. ’ Coach, the old man wants to speak to you’ . I threw my jacket on the grass and jogged across to where Madiba was standing , together with his nurse and a couple of F.A. suits. ” coach !” he barked ” look into my eyes!” I obviously did so as he sounded quite angry . ”I can see we are going to be ok !” A warm smile spread across his face and he shook my hand. I told him that the boys would try to make him proud and he replied by saying ” make South Africa happy”. We proceeded to smash Nigeria , winning 2-1 and as I saw Nelson Mandela waving to me as I left the field that night at Ellis Park I was about as pleased, proud and satisfied with my work as is humanly possible.
I never met Madiba again and he gradually withdrew from public life more and more , so even though he was a massive Chiefs fan I never got to receive any more pearls of wisdom.
I followed closely , as did we all, his recent fight against declining health but bizarrely found out from my daughter in Skåne about his death. Our TV was down and she posted on facebook a tribute to Mandela and my wife told me the sad news.
Our training that day was very low key. The players and staff said a prayer before training for their former President and afterwards discussed how we should best pay our last respects to Madiba and the Mandela family.
When I got home our chairman Kaizer Motaung , who grew up with and was a close friend of Madiba. He said that the squad were invited to the home of the Mandelas and that training should be cancelled for the following day and that a small private ceremony would take place at the house in Houghton , Johannesburg so that we could say our goodbyes.
A very moving speech was given by Kaizer and Mandla Mandela, the new Chief of the clan, responded in flawless queens English. When we had left flowers and a picture of Madiba in his Chiefs shirt and more of the elders had spoken of Madibas love for Chiefs the players were told to make their way back to thebus.at this point I was feeling so privileged to just be witnessing this when a huge security guy stopped me from leaving and told me to follow Kaizer into the main house. The entrance was a beautiful assembly of flowers , candles and large photos of the great man. As we passed down a hallway into a large room the elders from the village where the Mandelas originate were sitting in a semi circle. In the centre was Madibas wife Graca Michel.
She looked understandably weary but waved me to approach her. I moved , reached out my hand and offered her my condolences. She said” Chiefs meant a lot to him” I said that he meant a lot to the World. She accepted the single deep yellow Rose from me and graciously smiled as I left. ” Mandla!” she called, ” The coach must sign the book ” I followed Mandla into a room where the were hundreds of candles a massive picture of Madiba and an unmade bed.
” This is where he passed ! Please leave us a message” He handed me a very large brown leather book with a gold crest o South Africa on the front. ” Obama will also sign this” he said. ” this will become a historical document” .
”Sometimes a teacher is sent to us. Please God, give us the wisdom and strength to follow his path . Rest in peace Madiba”
I feel privileged to have met Nelson Roihlahla Mendela. I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to say goodbye.
Treasure your friends.