Indian cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar today paid heart-felt tribute to former South Africa president Nelson Mandela, saying the anti-apartheid icon was a "truly inspirational human being".
"When I met Mr Mandela it was one of the most memorable days of my life. A truly inspirational human being....," wrote Tendulkar on his Twitter account.
"He will live on in my heart forever. R.I.P," he further wrote.
Madiba, as Mandela was fondly known, had been battling health issues in recent months, including a recurring lung infection that led to numerous hospitalisations.
Mandela, who emerged from prison after 27 years to lead South Africa out of decades of apartheid before becoming the country's first black leader, had faced several health scares. His most recent hospital stay spanning over three months was his longest since he walked free in 1990.
Mandela is respected worldwide for his role in fighting racism in South Africa, and for forgiving his former white captors after his release from prison.
Other sportspersons worldwide have also mourned the death of Mandela. Heavyweight boxing legend Muhammad Ali said Mandela "taught us forgiveness on a grand scale". FIFA chief Sepp Blatter called Mandela "one of the greatest humanists of our time" and Tiger Woods said he had been inspired by South Africa's anti-apartheid hero. Australia and England cricket teams held a minute's silence before play in the second Ashes cricket Test in Adelaide, a scene replicated by New Zealand and West Indies in Dunedin. Brazil's football legend Pele described Mandela as his hero. Cricket South Africa (CSA) have also dedicated the on-going India-South Africa series to Mandela.
South African golf great Gary Player called Mandela "our beloved Father of the South African nation". New Zealand's rugby players have always acknowledged the impact of Mandela, who inspired South Africa to victory over the All Blacks in the 1995 World Cup final.