Pienaar said he can still remember the moment he knew Mandela became South Africa’s leader.
It happened five minutes before the 1995 World Cup final. Mandela walked out onto the stadium field to shake the hands of players. He was wearing the green cap and uniform of the South African national team, with Pienaar’s number stenciled on his jersey.
When the crowd noticed Mandela, Carlin, the author, said they seemed “to go dead still.” Then they slowly began chanting, and the chant picked up and spread through the stadium as Mandela waved his rugby cap and broke into a huge smile.
Pienaar was in the dressing room at the time. He didn’t see Mandela, but he heard the crowd of mostly white South Africans as their voices rumbled through the stadium.
They had called him a terrorist, a communist and an enemy of the state. Now they chanted something else as Mandela faced the crowd:
“Nelson! Nelson! Nelson …”