By Maggie Andresen
Recently discharged from the hospital following a brief spell of pneumonia, Nelson Mandela’s universal message of peace and equality was promoted at the March 31st Sunderland and Manchester United football match as part of “Nelson Mandela Day.” The anti-racism campaign is gaining ground in Europe, and host team Sunderland is committed to making an impact on Africa’s emerging market.
Players warmed up for the match in Nelson Mandela t-shirts and attendees were encouraged to donate to the South African charity. While policy making bodies and football clubs continue to break ground on gradually yet effectively dealing with racism, Sunderland is taking a more active approach. The game featured large screens and commercials broadcasting Mandela’s message of racial equality, followed by commentary in Swahili.
Michael Farnan is responsible for guiding the Premier League’s less prestigious Sunderland team to the African region. During the late 1990s Farnan conducted a similar project in South- East Asia and China with team Manchester United, and hopes his campaign in South Africa will reap similar results of new wealth and healthier economy.
“Of course, Nelson Mandela is the torchbearer of equality and racism issues, and we felt that as a club working in Africa would it not be an idea to see if there was anything we could do, utilize him and support him in that message.”
The coalition is membered with Tullow Oil which started the ‘Invest in Africa’ sponsership, and has now partnered with Sunderland’s “Foundation of Light” program which involves aiding in local community initiatives. Both projects promote furthering Africa’s physical development and bolstering prosperity across the continent. The Sunderland Football Club intends on strengthening communities and improving community ties as well as supporting local buisnesses with new investment opportunities.
Nearly 300 million people in Africa along watch Premier Soccer matches, there is no better place for the Sunderland team to build a fan base and promote Mandela’s message of equality.
Aidan Heavy of Tullow Oil looks forward to promoting Mandela’s tenants of peace and equality in addition to improving Africa’s development and economy. “Everybody will be wearing the Sunderland shirt, every kid in every school will want a Sunderland shirt which says ‘Invest in Africa,’ believe me. It will be the number one club.”
This proactive approach to combating South Africa’s long standing racist traditions in conjunction with supporting its ravaged economy is a welcome change that the country has long been in need of. A global audience has been harnessed with team Sunderland, the “Foundation of Light” program and ‘Invest in South Africa’ partnership; positive results across the nation and continent are expected to result from this innovative project.