If the words uttered by José Mourinho this week are anything to go by, Nelson Mandela is continuing to inspire people.
Before his first loss as Tottenham Hotspur manager to his former club Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday, Mourinho attributed a quote to Mandela in his pre-match press conference. And he is not the first person to attribute this quote to our former president.
“A bit like Mr Mandela said: ‘You never lose. You win or you learn.’ And at United, I won and I learnt,” he said.
Mourinho was answering a question about his troubled last few months at United, his last managerial position before joining Spurs, and was seemingly inspired by the great statesman’s quote.
Or was he?
Google it and you will find many references of attribution to Mandela. However, the Nelson Mandela Foundation on Thursday told City Press that nothing in its archives mentioned the context in which the quote was said or written.
Make no mistake, Mourinho mentioned Mandela and the quote with curated precision.
Even if he or his team had not done their due diligence, Mandela and the quote feed into Mourinho’s narrative of this reformed, charming personality with many glorious achievements to his name.
It’s a personality that is only seeking to liberate Spurs from the drought of cup glory, and lead them into a new era of visionary and courageous football.
Every word he has said since being appointed as Spurs manager has been aimed at changing the narrative of his leadership style – from a dictatorial one to a charming one.
Mourinho has managed to win over many a disheartened fan, hater and critic with his introspective talk, his philosophical musings and his razor-sharp wit.
And he has done it with such cunningness that even those neutral to his points of view tend to smile when he says something outlandish.
Even before he took over as Spurs boss last month, Mourinho was said to have asked people he had worked with or respected to “tell me what I was like, give it to me straight”.
He alluded to this in his first press conference when he was asked what he had learnt in the 11 months he was away from the managerial position: “I am humble. Humble enough to try to analyse my career, the evolution, the problems and the solution.”
Mourinho said he went “very deep” in that analysis – deep enough to pick up a few good quotes, I’m sure. He also said that he will not make the same mistakes he made previously.
“But I will make new mistakes,” he said.
To prove he is reformed, Mourinho has gone around hugging players, fans and even ball boys while talking up the opposition and relegating his snide insulting comments to the past.
Sure, his first loss showed a crack or two in the new narrative, but he reined himself in and did not get drawn into disparaging debates. However, the true test of this Mourinho starts now for the “humble one”.
But will the Madiba magic, or faux Madiba magic, be with him? Only time will tell.