Sporting Narratives is GamblingTV’s opportunity to explore a time in which a gripping tale from the sporting world was portrayed through the unmistakable medium of cinema.

Clint Eastwood’s cinematic drama Invictus details how sports brought together the country of South Africa.

It’s set during the presidential campaign of Nelson Mandela, who is played brilliantly by Morgan Freeman, as South Africa earned World Cup glory.

The film commences as Mandela is released from jail after a decades-long prison sentence for activism, opens on a pristine sports ground where a white Rugby team is training in full kit and equipment before panning over a fence and onto a dirt field where young black children are playing with a broken ball and dirty-ragged clothing, underlining the inequality in the country at the time.

This is followed up by a scene four years later, with Eastwood using a variety of news reports as a way to offer the audience context and quickly explain the important events which took place in South Africa during that time – which included a change in law which allowed black people to vote. 

It is here where we are shown the influence of Nelson Mandela as he essentially stops a civil war and becomes the first ever black president of South Africa, with the story of the movie kicking off on his first day in office. 

The 133 minute epic then takes you through Mandela’s first year in office and gives the audience a front row seat as we see him face the challenges of a post-aprtheid era. The turning point in the film comes when the South African Rugby Union team, the Springboks,  take on England and Mandela notices black South Africans cheering for the opposition team. 

After this, Mandela arranges a meeting with Rugby captain François Pienaar, played by Matt Damon, and with South Africa set to host the 1995 World Cup, Mandela implies a victory will bring the country together – and it does. 

Discussing his role, Freeman stated: “If we can say any part of acting is hard, then playing someone who is living and everybody knows would be the hardest… I felt destined to do something about Mandela. In 1992, when he published his autobiography, he was asked who he would want to play him, if the book ever became a movie. And he named me. So, I was sort of the chosen one, as it were. Therefore, I expected that eventually, I would play him.”

Sporting Narratives: Clint Eastwood’s telling of a historic moment in South African sport