Nelson Mandela: Friend of soccer who used the power of sport to change a nation

mandelacupIt seems somehow apt that on the eve of the 2014 World Cup draw that the man who did much to bring the preceding one to his homeland has died at the age of 95.

Mandela, as was pointed out in this eloquent column, understood the positive influence of sport on wider society:

“Sport,” he said, “has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.”

Much, it should be said, as Mandela did himself.

RIP, Madiba.

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A Life Well Lived

When I worked at the L.A. Times’ Ventura County Bureau, every Sunday the reporter on duty was required to scour the death notices, call a relative of the deceased and write an obituary about a “regular” human being.

It was a twist on the old journalism class assignment of interviewing a person at random and writing a profile of them on the theory that everyone has a story that needs to be told. If memory serves, it was based/ripped off from the N.Y. Times, which at one time ran a regular, similar feature called “A Life Well Lived.”

I was reminded of this Saturday when my wife read an unusually long paid obituary in the Daily Breeze about 28-year-old Devon Markert, a Long Beach resident and teacher at Torrance Adult School who died earlier this month of brain cancer after her fourth surgery.

Her obituary read in part:

“She was an avid soccer player throughout her childhood and adolescence, playing on competitive traveling teams and on the 1996 Central California State Championship Buchanan High School team. She credited soccer with giving her an identity, the opportunity to develop and sustain close relations, and the strength to face tough situations with hope and confidence. She stated in a draft of her memoirs: Joining the soccer team was the single most important decision of my life. Soccer helped me forge my identity as a scholar-athlete and kept me distracted when I needed a distraction. I don’t know if I was always good, but I turned into a solid player. The lessons I learned through my various soccer teams and the relationships I made on and off the soccer field were important character-building experiences that continue to carry me through the tough times of today.”

A life well lived indeed.

Devon Markert’s obituary is here.

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