Many around the world enjoy watching a wide array of sports, but then there is the rest of us — the sports fanatics who elevate our passion for the game into a way of life. Yet no matter the bracket, we engage with sports for its purity of competition and to witness the on-field battle of supremacy between world-renowned names. But with international popularity in sports comes another thing: Politics. I intend on making St Andrews students aware of this venomous intersection within the world of sports and analyse the driving factors behind such a movement.
Ideally, politics and sports would be two distinct, separate concepts uninfluenced by one another. In the past, we recognized sports as a unifying symbol during political tension. For example, in1998, Iran and USA participated in arguably the most politically charged game to date at the FIFA World Cup. The game took place during peak political tensions between the two countries, continuing even after a terrorist organisation had protested against FIFA for allowing the match. In light of the fact that the true spirit of sport is independent of the political climate, the two sides embraced the occasion and showed how unifying sports can be by playing the game in compliance with the spirit of competition, and taking a joint photo of the two teams prior to kick off, each Iranian player wearing a white flower to symbolize peace.
However, the remainder of this article shall examine political tampering uncovered within sports over recent years.
Let’s begin with two neighbouring countries heightened by political tension, who grab the world’s attention in competition. Yes, I’m delving into the Indi-Pakistani rivalry. If you were to ask a true cricket fan as to what match they enjoy most, the India vs. Pakistan rivalry will always be mentioned. It is the dream of cricketing devotees to see a bilateral test series between the two nations. However, it is a shame the match is now a political matter neither side is willing to engage upon. If they take a lesson out of the sporting books of yesteryear, they would realise the game is a unifying force that could foster a sense of peace between them. For example, at the recent Winter Olympics, following the formation of a unified Korean team, relations between communist North Korea and democratic South saw unprecedented improvement, thereby supporting my point of how sport can break any political barrier in its path. Moreover, the influence of politics in sport has led to heightening discrimination.
Discrimination in sport is seen across the world. Back home in Sri Lanka, many players are sidelined from selection because of politicians, and few are included irrespective of performance due to political connections. This leads to a weakened team, inevitably causing poor results, growing anger, and a sense of betrayal fostered among fans. Recently, a growing number of sporting greats have hung up their boots, taking to politics as a means of continuing their livelihood. By launching a career in politics, athletes use their name and fame to progress further with a large following accumulated on the field. This connection between sports fans and politics connects voters’ love for the sport to the retired athletes running for public office. The influence this specific group of individuals exert is no longer that of an ex-sports personality, as is the case with those who take up coaching, commentary etc, but is rather a political influence known simply through their political post.
We adore sport for what it truly represents: camaraderie, fair-play, and the appreciation for those who deliver world-renowned performances upon request. Sport, devoid of political influence, is a true levelled playing field, and we crave for a revival of this landscape.