Stoking divisive feelings kills sporting spirit

Referring to the Cricket World Cup final match today, a leading newspaper's front-page headline said "Victory over Pakistan and win today for 26/11 victims: Gambhir". The news further opens with the line: "Images of the 26/11 terror attacks are still fresh in Gautam Gambhir's mind" - Gautam Gambhir is one of the Indian cricket players and 26/11 refers to the unfortunate terrorist attack in Mumbai on 26 November 2008. To what extent is stoking divisive feelings of hatred and communal frenzy justified when playing sports like cricket? And even worse is to poison the sporting spirit in our people's mind on both sides of the border and beyond - by inciting them with 'patriotism' for instance.

Mobile text messages or SMS sent to me these days during world cup cricket match often fuel such divisive feelings. How will victory in a sport event be equated with resolving issues like terrorism, violence, civil unrest, and other outcomes of socio-cultural or development-related issues plaguing our communities across borders for generations?

Yousuf Raza Gilani, Prime Minister of Pakistan, who was in India to see the much-talked about India-Pakistan cricket match earlier this week, along with Manmohan Singh, India's Prime Minister, said to the media "Cricket won, so did Pakistan and India" when the match ended (India won this match). The front-page headline of Pakistan's leading English newspaper next day was: "Cricket won, so did Pakistan and India: Gilani."

I will consider this as an example of a very sensitive reporting vis-à-vis the top front-page headline of one of the India's lead newspapers that read: "Gunshots replaced by silence as India beat Pakistan."

This hysteria over cricket and so passionately projecting it as symbolic victory of good over evil is a dishonest attempt to create euphoria and inject a feel-good factor when in reality nothing has changed in terms of issues challenging people's lives on a daily basis.

The place of sports is in the stadium and when we walk out of the stadium, the daily realities of our own lives will welcome us back. Not much would have changed, except another day gone by.

Bobby Ramakant - CNS 

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Citizen News Service (CNS), India/Thailand 
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