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Black History Month: Atlético Ottawa’s Malcolm Shaw on Mandela’s influence

Black History Month runs from Feb. 1-March 1, 2021. CanPL.ca will feature articles throughout the month profiling the Canadian Premier League’s many outstanding players of colour, as well as stories about their views on the importance of Black History Month.


Atlético Ottawa forward Malcolm Shaw traces back his deep relationship to Nelson Mandela to a presumably boring day at his parent’s place in Pickering, Ont.

Scouring a bookshelf in the basement, Shaw discovered a book titled “The Struggle Is My Life,” an autobiography from the South African humanitarian filled with speeches and writings.

“I was trying to dig deeper into his life, his legacy, what he went through, and there’s just a lot of a lot of inspiring and also crazy stuff that I read in there,” Shaw told CanPL.ca. “This gives you perspective on his actual life – the challenges, the tribulations.”

Little wonder then that Shaw, 25, nominated Mandela as one of his personal heroes for Black History Month.

Mandela fought against Apartheid – South Africa’s system of institutionalized racial segregation – for nearly half a century. Imprisoned in 1962, Mandela continued to fight until his eventual release in 1990, and he went on to become the country’s first Black president in 1994 after negotiating the end to Apartheid.

“He lived with the struggle that he embraced and had to go through – I think that is ultimately what his legacy is about, which makes it so memorable and impactful,” Shaw said. “He left a legacy of forgiveness and reconciliation. The book shows that at many different parts in his life.”


RELATED READING: Black Lives Matter – Helpful reading and video resources


Shaw, who recently re-signed with Ottawa for the 2021 Canadian Premier League season, shined for an expansion Atlético side as their starting forward, scoring two goals at The Island Games. He was also a driving force behind the CPL player-led Black Lives Matter showing of solidarity. On the pitch during the league-wide protest, Shaw recalled the “powerful moment” between all eight clubs.

As for taking his learnings forward through life, Shaw said Mandela’s remarkable ability to forgive and develop an understanding to achieve a greater goal as a major inspiration.

“Learning the art of compromise, you know, that understanding that you must not compromise your principles, but you also, you know, must not humiliate the opposition,” Shaw said.

“He lived with the struggle that he embraced and had to go through – I think that is ultimately what his legacy is about, which makes it so memorable and impactful.”