Sport mourns 'miracle man' Mandela

Fri Dec 6, 2013 11:22am EST
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(Reuters) - Tributes poured in from across the sporting world for Nelson Mandela, who died aged 95 on Thursday, including from the International Olympic Committee, soccer governing body FIFA and a moving valediction from former boxer Muhammad Ali.

The heavyweight great said he was "deeply saddened" by the death of the former South Africa president, who had inspired everyone to break barriers and reach for the impossible.

"He made us realize, we are our brother's keeper and that our brothers come in all colors," Ali said in a statement.

"He taught us forgiveness on a grand scale. His was a spirit born free, destined to soar above the rainbows. Today his spirit is soaring through the heavens. He is now forever free."

South African rugby also paid its respects to the "miracle" performed by Mandela in uniting his country, partly through his embrace of the Springbok rugby team at the 1995 World Cup.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner won over many whites when he donned the jersey of South Africa's national rugby team - once a symbol of white supremacy - at the rugby World Cup final in Johannesburg's Ellis Park stadium.

"All of our lives are poorer today at the extinguishing of the great beacon of light and hope that led the way for our country through the transition to democracy," Oregan Hoskins, President of the South African Rugby Union, said in a statement.

"'Madiba' was a great man of vision, determination and integrity who performed a miracle that amazed the world as much as it amazed his fellow countrymen.

"Through his extraordinarily vision, he was able to use the 1995 Rugby World Cup as an instrument to help promote nation building just one year after South Africa's historic first democratic election.   Continued...

A tribute to former South African President Nelson Mandela is shown on the screen before the draw for the 2014 World Cup at the Costa do Sauipe resort in Sao Joao da Mata, Bahia state, December 6, 2013. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes