Geingob remembers the "people's champ" - Muhammad Ali

05 Jun 2016 11:10am
GOBABIS, 05 JUN (NAMPA) – “The late Muhammad Ali was more than a boxer - he was a humanitarian, anti-war hero and an exemplary role model, who emerged out of one of the most turbulent periods of history to bring joy, tears and hope to so many people around the world.”
These are the words of President Hage Geingob in an emotional tribute to the boxing legend who passed away on 03 June.
Ali, dubbed the greatest boxer off all time by many, died after a respiratory illness that was complicated by Parkinson's disease.
In a post on his Facebook page Saturday, Geingob recounted his personal encounter with Ali on 20 September 1972, after Ali had fought Floyd Patterson at the old Madison Square Garden in New York City.
“After a brief wait, Ali emerged from his room looking very tired and exhibiting great humility. We exchanged greetings and I began to explain to him that he was greatly admired by Africans, not only as an athlete, but as a person and a symbol of black resistance in the face of white oppression.”
During the encounter, Geingob urged Ali to abort his plans of fighting in South Africa as that would give the impression that he was supporting the white minority regime that ruled the country at the time.
Furthermore, the president described Ali as a man of principle, who was characterised by wit, wisdom and foresight that cannot be matched by any ordinary boxer.
“There is no questioning the fact that Muhammad Ali changed the face of boxing. Until this day, all the promotional hype that characterises modern boxing is in existence due to the genius and personality of Ali.”
Geingob also recognised the criticism that Ali had endured from fellow Americans, including some from his own community for renouncing his birth name - Cassius Clay - who was the son of a slave owner, and during his conversion to Islam by taking on the name, Muhammad Ali.
“I have often said that one has to be prepared to suffer for one’s principles. Ali is a true example of this belief, as he suffered greatly for his principles.”
Ali's funeral will take place on Friday in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. But it will not be an ordinary funeral; it will be what Ali had planned long ago: a celebration for everybody.