Picture a packed stadium where a major football match is being played. The image of thousands of fans, wearing identical jerseys and cheering for their teams, may come to your mind. Every individual in the crowd may be different from the other in more than a few ways: they may come from different parts of the world, may speak different languages, and may even be complete strangers. Yet, when their favourite team scores a goal, they jump up from their seats, whoop and cheer in unison. When revelling in the joy of the game, individual differences become irrelevant, and all hearts beat as one.
Such is the power of sports. It brings people together in inexplicable ways. Interest in a common sport can forge friendships between strangers. Personal worries may take a backseat when there is a game to catch with friends. The joy that comes with the victory of a favourite sports team can help people lighten up, forget grudges and maintain peace. Neelima Sadanand, an ardent football fan, agrees. “I have observed that talking about football is a great way to bond. Discussing victories and embarrassing losses can help break the ice between strangers. I have seen that sports triggers really intense emotions among fans.”
While such is the effect sports has on the fans, what it does to sportsmen is even better. The highly intense physical activity not only keeps them physically and mentally healthy, it also teaches them sportsmanship–this includes respect for everyone and the established rules, good ethics and team spirit. Applying these qualities outside of the playground can help individuals achieve peace in their lives.
Being involved in sports–playing or even simply watching them–often brings out the best in people. It is this effect that makes sports a powerful tool that helps in bringing about peace in the world. We may have seen that countries with tense political ties often organise sporting tournaments to clear the air and improve their relationship. Furthermore, the main goal of the Olympics–the biggest international sporting event–is international peace. The five circles in its logo represent the five continents of the world, while its symbol–the olive wreath–is one of peace. By bringing sportspersons from across the world on one platform, the event hopes to forge new bonds and relationships.
Even though the Olympics are held only once in every four years and feature only the crème de la crème of international sportspersons, there are Olympic committees across the world that organise smaller events and activities for the common people in the meantime. Their goal is to bring people together through sports and provide them the resources and opportunities they need to shine. Some of their most important projects are organised in war-torn and crisis-hit countries, where children and young adults are coached and rehabilitated through sports. Intense physical activity, as studies have shown, can help individuals on their path to recovery from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
By engaging in sports and educating ourselves about the issues plaguing the society, we can begin to grow into healthy, responsible individuals that the world can benefit from.
Besides organisations such as this, sportspersons themselves often engage in peace and developmental activities. Portuguese footballer Christiano Ronaldo was recently declared the most charitable sportsperson in the world. He donated millions of pounds for relief in Nepal, following the 2015 earthquake. Ronaldo is not alone in this. Tennis star Serena Williams, wrestler John Cena and badminton player Saina Nehwal have also given away chunks of their fortune towards various causes.
Besides monetary contribution, sportspersons can also use their popularity to draw people’s attention to matters of importance. Says P Srinivasa Murthy, a former first-class cricketer and sports officer at a leading bank, “Important causes get more attention when popular sports stars are associated with them. Just by appearing in a campaign or contributing to a cause, these individuals can influence thousands of young fans across the country to think about the issue.”
Not only do these sportsmen bring people happiness in the form of the entertainment their games provide, they also directly contribute to causes that affect the lives of the people. Moreover, as Murthy points out, they turn icons and set an example for up and coming sportspersons and other individuals to be compassionate and think beyond their own lives.
We can all agree that today, more than ever, we need good role models in society. In times of hatred, ignorance, and apathy, sportspersons can show the youth of today the way forward. By engaging in sports and educating ourselves about the issues plaguing the society, we can begin to grow into healthy, responsible individuals that the world can benefit from.