Directed by Clint Eastwood - 2009 - USA - 133 min


2023 June 21 | by Arduino Mancini Leadership - Motivation - Performance - Politics

The film focuses on the events that took place in 1995, when the Rugby World Cup was held in South Africa, and stems from an adaptation of John Carlin’s novel Playing the Enemy – Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation.

The time the country is going through is very delicate. Nelson Mandela has taken office in 1994 as President of a nation struggling to put apartheid behind it; white Afrikaners and Blacks people hate each other, and there is a pressing need to bring together under the same flag multiple ethnic groups and cultures that all have one priority: to revitalize the economy that will help decrease social differences.

The Rugby World Cup becomes for Mandela an unmissable opportunity.

South Africa’s national team, the Springboks, has long been excluded from international competition because of apartheid; now it is back on the scene, but it has not the support of the entire country.

The team is beloved by Whites and deeply hated by Black people, who during competitions punctually cheer for their opponents; moreover, the team performances are disappointing and the premises for a dishonourable participation in the World Cup organized on friendly soil are all there.

Here then is Mandela’s idea.

Aware of the ability of sport to unify people in a significantly shorter time than other drivers of integration, the President decides to attempt what appears impossible: to win the Rugby World Cup.

To this end, he meets François Pienaar, the team’s captain, and engages him by sharing his dream. François sets to collaborate with the President, fully aware that the future of the country may depend on the outcome of the sporting competition.

I won’t tell you more about the plot, not even that South Africa beat the All Blacks in a pulsating final.

Now, before I tell you what are to me the film’s key points, watch the trailer!




How to watch the film

A story that like few others shows what can be achieved when a leader defines the vision of a likely future and makes it credible to people so different and divided by hatred; Mandela understands the unifying power of sport, the strength of teamwork and the desire for redemption.

And turns it into an instrument of social unification.

But the leader in this case also shows that he understands some essential characteristics that are often overlooked by poorly performing leaders:

  • goals are achieved through persistence, working patiently, striving to create the conditions for success day by day;
  • no one succeeds alone. Mandela makes every effort to gather around himself people who share his vision, he supports them and cultivates their tension towards the desired future;
  • the leader must know how to compose differences and at the same time value diversity. And this is to give durability to change;
  • inspiration generated with catchphrases, such as those sometimes used to generate motivation in corporate employees, burns out quickly, leaving nothing but a brief warmth.

In a short time, he manages to turn a team without a prospect into the champion team, confirming that very often the distance between success and defeat is all in the attitude towards competition.

If you have not seen the film, you must do so now.



Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Adjoa Andoh, Tony Kgoroge, Julian Lewis Jones, Patrick Mofokeng, Matt Stern


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