The thundering rain didn't make it ideal to go to an outdoor soccer stadium on Tuesday. But considering what the late Nelson Mandela meant to Africa and the world, Amadou Fall, the NBA's vice president of development in Africa, was determined to pay his respects at Mandela's memorial Tuesday in Johannesburg.
"The whole world stopped to pay attention," Fall told Yahoo Sports. "Dignitaries from all over the world, representing countries that have fought, shared the same stage. It was universal. Not just a South Africa moment. Mandela was in prison for 27 years, so I wasn't going to let the rain bother me."
Fall joined President Obama, foreign dignitaries and numerous celebrities at the service at the FNB Stadium in the Johannesburg township of Soweto. Mandela died at his Johannesburg home Dec. 5 at the age of 95. The famous activist, politician and philanthropist focused on dismantling apartheid as the President of South Africa by fighting racism, poverty and inequality.
Of all the speakers at the memorial, Fall was most impressed by Obama.
"It was a moving speech that was right on point," said Fall, a native of Senegal. "Obama's speech was something to highlight."
NBA Africa opened offices in Johannesburg in 2010 under the guidance of Fall, who previously worked as an international scout for the Dallas Mavericks. Fall has also played a major role during the past 11 years in developing the NBA's Basketball Without Borders program in Africa. Over 60 players from 25 African countries attended last summer's four-day camp in Johannesburg. The camp counselors included NBA players Kyrie Irving, Serge Ibaka, Al Horford, Luol Deng, Thabo Sefolosha, Hasheem Thabeet, Jerryd Bayless and Bismack Biyombo.
Fall said Mandela visited the camp twice during its early years and he was able to spend some memorable time with Mandela, who once used soccer to unite South Africa. Fall, who left Senegal for a basketball scholarship at the University of the District of Columbia, is hoping to unite Africa through basketball.
"He was very humble and charasmatic," Fall said of Mandela. "You felt something special with him. You could tell why he did what he did. We share his vision about sports at the core of what we are doing through the NBA.
"For him it was about uniting his country. It impacted me to use sports to contribute to my community. What he did inspired me from an early age. He loved sports, but to put it in his role as a statesman was a unique way to serve mankind. I feel honored to live in a country he built."
- Sports & Recreation
- Nelson Mandela
- President Obama