Rugby, races and the rumble in the jungle: the best books on the biggest days in sport

02 November 2019 06:00
Ahead of the rugby world cup final, Nicholas Wroe celebrates sporting landmarks in literatureThe presence of South Africa in today’s rugby world cup final against England is undoubtedly a source of great pride for the team and their supporters. But no matter how thrilling the match, or whatever the result, the occasion will never match the drama, emotion, cultural symbolism and political impact of their appearance in the 1995 final. They played at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, the spiritual home of Afrikaner rugby and, by implication, white supremacy, South Africa beat New Zealand that day. More importantly Nelson Mandela, president for just over a year, chose to greet the teams and present the trophy wearing the green-and-gold jersey of the once-hated Springboks, and in so doing established a key staging post on the journey to a post-apartheid society. John Carlin’s gripping account of the event, Playing the Enemy, later made into the film Invictus, skilfully probes the politics and personalities behind that day to show how it became one of the most potent political moments of the century.Cup finals in fiction are comparatively rare – and what novelist would dare concoct such pitch-perfect choreography and moral courage as Mandela’s intervention – but JL Carr’s How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cup is a minor classic. On the surface a daft tale about how a village team beat the big boys and made it all the way to Wembley, it is also a sly state of the nation novel that, with eerie prescience, challenges media and metropolitan pretensions from the viewpoint of the neglected and patronised rural edges of England. Continue readingreadfullarticle

Source: TheGuardian