Many leading sports stars have paid tribute to Nelson Mandela following the death of the former South African leader at the age of 95.Former South Africa rugby union captain Francois Pienaar famously received the William Webb Ellis trophy from Mandela after the Springboks beat New Zealand in the 1995 World Cup final.
Pienaar said: “The enormity of his impact is very difficult for me to describe.
“The impact he had on me as an individual – I’ve been very blessed, I was at the right place at the right time, more so than any Rugby World Cup captain before me and after me.
“What other President would have picked up the phone and said ‘Hi Francois, how’s the team doing – are you all okay?
“But the team – what he did for the team was wonderful to watch – that air of confidence that he brought with him and that unbelievable humility that Madiba had is something that rubbed off – and I never thought he would wear a Springbok jersey!”
Joost van der Westhuizen, who played in the 1995 World Cup final, said on Twitter: “A sad day for our country. Rest in Peace Madiba. Condolences to his family and friends.”
Current South Africa rugby union international Bryan Habana tweeted: “R.I.P Tata Madiba. Thank you for the inspiration and hope. May your legacy live on forever.”
Everton’s South African midfielder Steven Pienaar tweeted: “In tears The Father Of the Great Nation Have Past On. R.I.P TATA MADIBA.”
Cricket South Africa said on their official Twitter account: “RIP Tata Mandela. It is because of you that a represented Proteas team can express their talent across the globe #mandela.”
South Africa’s one-day international captain AB de Villiers tweeted: “Let us now, more than ever, stick together as a nation! We owe him that much. #madiba you will be missed! #tata #inspiration #leader.”
South African golfer Gary Player tweeted: “Nelson Mandela’s courage, forgiveness, love & hope inspired people around the world. He made me want to be a better man. RIP Tata.”
Jamaica’s superstar sprinter Usain Bolt tweeted: “One of the greatest human beings ever. May your soul rest in peace. The world’s greatest fighter.”
Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand wrote: “RIP #NelsonMandela – the real inspiration.”
Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany said: “RIP Nelson Mandela. No words to describe the goodness you have brought to this world. Sad to see you go. Inspirational, my only ever hero.”
Saracens rugby union club wrote: “RIP Nelson Mandela – He reminded the world of the power of reconciliation and the power of sport.”
Former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson tweeted: “I’m hearing about Nelson Mandela’s death while on African soil in Oran, Algeria. Sending prayers to Mandela’s family.”
Tennis world No 1 Rafa Nadal tweeted: “Rest in peace Nelson Mandela, you have been a role model to the world. My most sincere condolences to family and friends.”
Former Holland international and Chelsea manager Ruud Gullit said: “It’s a great loss of a great man. I am so proud that I had some moments with you. Thank you Madiba.”
Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo offered his tribute, saying: “Thankful Madiba for your legacy and your example. You”ll always stay with us.”
Brazil legend Pele: “He was my hero, my friend, and also a companion to me in our fight for the people and for world peace.”
Former England goalkeeper David James tweeted: “When asked, who would I most like to meet? I said, I have already met him, Nelson Mandela, an absolute honour. R.I.P.”
England and Tottenham defender Kyle Walker wrote: “RIP Nelson Mandela, a truly great leader and inspiration.”
Former England cricket captain Sir Ian Botham tweeted: “A very sad day …the most remarkable and respected man “Nelson Mandela” has passed away he will be missed by all !! RIP.”