Sports Sans Borders

Po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ven­tions and fa­voritism mars the beauty of sports and harms the sports­man’s spirit.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Saad Amanullah Khan

In the sub­con­ti­nent, cricket is a fever, it is a frenzy, it makes us for­get all our prob­lems and cheer for our teams like we have never cheered for any­thing in our lives be­fore. It is heart­en­ing to see the amaz­ing ways in which cit­i­zens of a coun­try get to­gether – re­gard­less of their eth­nic dif­fer­ences, provin­cial ri­val­ries and re­li­gious con­tra­dic­tions – when their na­tional team is play­ing in a ma­jor tour­na­ment. All are one and cheer­ing for a sin­gle team made up of play­ers be­long­ing to dif­fer­ent prov­inces, reli­gions and eth­nic back­grounds.

Be­sides sup­port­ing our own coun­try, we also en­joy cricket matches be­tween other teams, some­times even cheer for them, es­pe­cially when they are play­ing against our ri­vals. And so cricket, one of the most amaz­ing games in the sub­con­ti­nent, continues to in­spire and unite over one and a half bil­lion people across Pak­istan, In­dia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

No­tice how people do not care which re­li­gion the play­ers be­long to or which eth­nic class they rep­re­sent as long as they have the right skills and com­pe­tence to win a game. We re­spect play­ers who are good in what they do and what they deliver on the field ir­re­spec­tive of their na­tion­al­ity and race. Play­ers like Sachin Tan­dulkar, Javed Mian­dad, Adam Gilchrist, Brian Lara and Jacque Kal­lis are revered and re­spected across the globe in ev­ery cricket-play­ing na­tion.

Such be­hav­ior sends out a strong mes­sage, loud and clear, that deep down at the core of our hearts, we re­ally don’t care about re­li­gion, eth­nic­ity, po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion; we want to en­joy life, we sup­port merit and love ca­ma­raderie.

Merit and abil­ity, which un­for­tu­nately have been side­lined in many South Asian so­ci­eties, es­pe­cially in govern­ment cir­cles, have been re­placed by nepo­tism and fa­voritism that takes prece­dence in the minds of cricket fans. Those who have spent their en­tire lives sup­port­ing pref­er­en­tial treat­ment and dis­crim­i­na­tion, sit in sta­di­ums or in front of their TVs and pray with their hands clasped and eyes shut tight, hop­ing fer­vently that com­pe­tent play­ers have been selected by the se­lec­tion boards. Un­for­tu­nately, they know in their heart of hearts that the se­lec­tors are also a part of the same so­ci­ety where merit does not de­fine se­lec­tion cri­te­ria.

Sports and a sports­man’s spirit gives us hope that we, hu­man be­ings, do have a heart; we do have the pas­sion to en­joy life with­out borders and with­out nepo­tism. The world, un­for­tu­nately, has changed dras­ti­cally. Now, gov­ern­ments are ready to kill over bor­der in­fringe­ments and people are at each other’s throat on mi­nor eth­nic and re­li­gious dif­fer­ences. Why have we – the civil so­ci­ety, the ed­u­cated, the opin­ion-mak­ers – lost the abil­ity to put some san­ity into in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, into our so­ci­eties where sense­less vi­o­lence and ter­ror­ism has made life dif­fi­cult and ad­versely af­fected busi­ness growth and its sus­te­nance?

Gov­ern­ments do dis­rupt the amaz­ing world of sports where merit and only merit is the name of the game. An ex­am­ple of govern­ment in­ter­fer­ence in sport is that of In­dia ban­ning the Pak­istani team from tour­ing the coun­try. A more re­cent ex­am­ple is of a ban placed by the Bangladeshi Cricket Con­trol Board on Bangladeshi fans, stop­ping them from wav­ing flags of any coun­try other than their own. Thank­fully though, the ban was lifted af­ter a few days.

One of the worst ex­am­ples of

mix­ing pol­i­tics and sports is that of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow when the U.S. and its al­lies stopped their play­ers from at­tend­ing the games. This was fol­lowed by a tit-for-tat re­ac­tion by the USSR when the coun­try and its al­lies dis­al­lowed their play­ers from at­tend­ing the Los Angeles Olympics four years later.

These ac­tions ru­ined the ca­reers of many de­serv­ing ath­letes, de­priv­ing them of a chance to prove their met­tle. As a re­sult of po­lit­i­cal re­al­i­ties tak­ing prece­dence, the Olympics did not show­case the best ath­letes from across the globe. Po­lit­i­cal ri­val­ries hurt the very spirit of the sport.

A ray of hope still ex­ists that sports have the abil­ity to pro­vide the op­por­tu­ni­ties or the av­enues where the en­tire hu­man­ity can get to­gether and where merit can pre­vail. If sports get tainted due to po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion or fa­voritism, it will harm the sports­man’s spirit of cit­i­zens sup­port­ing their teams.

Un­like sports, the im­pact of nepo­tism and fa­voritism is quite bla­tant and ob­vi­ous in govern­ment cir­cles and businesses. The dam­age in these sec­tors is se­vere and broad­based. In un­der­de­vel­oped so­ci­eties, the im­pact of nepo­tism is deeper and lasts for decades, giv­ing im­pe­tus to other prob­lems such as poverty and weaker in­sti­tu­tions. Let’s sup­port sports­man­ship and merit in each and ev­ery as­pect of our lives. The writer works in the cor­po­rate sec­tor and is ac­tive on var­i­ous busi­ness fo­rums and trade bod­ies.

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