Cry freedom: The story behind Invictus

Watching Invictus — the film about Nelson Mandela’s efforts to unify his country in support of the South African national rugby team, the Springboks — I cried. I cried as the white Springbok rugby team gives a clinic for young black children in the township slums; I cried when the team wins its first match; I cried as they sing “Nkosi Sikelele Africa,” South Africa’s post-apartheid national anthem, before the final big game at the climax of the story. I cried from joy, I cried from disbelief, I cried from hope, and I cried from homesickness. “You can’t imagine how much this means to me,” I said to my son as we left the theater.

You see, I lived in South Africa for eight years during the dark days of apartheid, when it was unimaginable that things would ever change. I moved to South Africa as a teenager in 1963, the same year Nelson Mandela was arrested at Rivonia and began 27 years in prison at Robben Island. I played rugby as a schoolboy at a Johannesburg boarding school, and I loved the sport for its power, speed and teamwork; my rugby boots were my favorite possession. Later, in 1971, I was deported from South Africa for my participation in anti-apartheid protests at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, where I had been a student and then a lecturer.