From growing up in an upper class white setting and never considering playing the sport, to the reality of today with every hue of the "rainbow nation" rooting for Bafana Bafana at the World Cup, the former president has witnessed an amazing transformation.
"Regardless of race, culture, language or economic background, we shall all be cheering for Bafana Bafana," the 74-year-old De Klerk wrote in an e-mail exchange with The Associated Press.
It was in 1995, shortly after Nelson Mandela took over as president of a multiracial nation, that South Africa won the Rugby World Cup. Back then, rugby was a sport long abhorred by blacks. But it transcended historical and political overtones.
For the World Cup, the politician who oversaw the end of apartheid said everyone will jump on the soccer bandwagon. The only difference is that South Africa's Springboks, a team that previously symbolized racial segregation, actually won the rugby tournament. Bafana Bafana, a Zulu nickname meaning The Boys, might be lucky to survive the first round.
"Winning the 1995 Rugby World Cup was not exactly a miracle — since South Africa has historically been one of the top rugby-playing countries in the world," De Klerk said. "Winning the 2010 football World Cup would, by contrast, be a miracle.
"However, watch out! We South Africans specialize in miracles."
De Klerk knows plenty about defying expectations. He and Mandela joined in orchestrating the largely peaceful transition from racist apartheid to a one-man, one-vote democracy. It is considered one of the greatest political achievements of recent times.
For De Klerk, a paragon of the white establishment, it meant a major transition. That same kind of transition occurred in sports, too.
"The reality is that when I was a young boy we simply did not play football. The only winter game we knew was rugby," De Klerk said. "In summer we played cricket and tennis."
The participants all were as white as the official dress for cricket and tennis at the time. And when De Klerk was in politics, soccer did not really matter. It was played mostly by the majority nonwhites, who had little voice in government.
"I cannot recall that soccer was ever a great factor in our politics," he said.
Rugby and the Olympics were, though, if only because of the international boycotts that deeply hurt Afrikaners.
"There were huge debates over multiracial cricket and rugby," De Klerk said.
During those days, Mandela's fellow prisoners on Robben Island just off Cape Town found in soccer a vital release from life in prison.
Mandela was freed in 1990 and elected president of a multiracial South Africa in 1994. With great skill, he used the 1995 Rugby World Cup to draw black and white together, despite the often deep hatred of many nonwhites for the Springboks.
"Nelson Mandela was a great leader who masterfully used the 1995 World Cup to promote national reconciliation," said De Klerk, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela in 1993.
Fifteen years have passed since the rugby tournament. The tension between South Africa's ethnic groups has largely decreased.
"The 1995 World Cup was special in its own way because it was one of the first opportunities for us to come together as a nation," he said. "I have the fullest confidence that our present government will rise to the occasion and will make sure that the World Cup is a success — even if they do not have the international stature of Nelson Mandela."
Still, there are challenges ahead. The game is still overwhelmingly played by nonwhites and the national team reflects that.
De Klerk, however, is loath to suggest much government interference.
"One of the things we learned from the past is that it is much better if sport is left to the various codes and to the people that play them," he said. "Football is becoming more multiracial because the country is becoming more multiracial. However, it might help to speed things along if government schools were to concentrate more on football than they do at present."