Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Special Report: Is The Spirit Of Sport Dying?

Sport has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. Cheating, absence of the sporting spirit in competitions, and scant respect for opponents seem to be on the rise globally. What is shocking is that penalties seem to have little effect on potential troublemakers while more and more people are approaching courts of law for redressals, more so abroad.

Some incidents involving sports persons in foreign land range from the usual to the bizarre. This year, Florida State baseball team suspended one of its players, Jameis Winston, for “stealing” 32 dollars worth of crab legs and crawfish from a supermarket after the issue was taken to a court. The recent local headlines included Atletico de Kolkata footballers and coach behaving in an unsportsmanlike manner in the ongoing Indian Super League.

The West Indies cricketers abandoned their tour of India midway through an ODI series due to a pay dispute with their own Board. A little earlier, allegations of bias against boxing referees were levelled by Indians at the recent Incheon Asian Games.

Off the field, the crime involving sports persons is not abating. South Africa’s national football captain Senzo Meyiwa was shot dead by burglars in his house near Johannesburg while double amputee runner Oscar Pistorius got a five-year prison term for killing his girlfriend. The biggest off field saga in Indian sport of recent times is an ongoing Supreme Court case against sidelined BCCI president N Srinivasan owned Chennai Super Kings franchise and son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan (for betting).

These are dark days for global sport, and not just Indian. A quick look the fast changing ethics in sport is due to the increasing stakes for sportspersons and other stakeholders, i.e. administrators and team owners. If one is to pin point one common factor for all these ills afflicting sport, it is money.

Money on offer in sport, in India and abroad, is seemingly in abundance and athletes/teams want to win at all costs. And that results in giving little consideration for rules and respect for opponents.

These days hardly any athlete follows or adheres to "play the game in the spirit of the game", the famous words uttered by the late Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at the first Asian Games in New Delhi in 1951, which were adopted as the motto for this quadrennial continental competition.

Sporting spirit has gone out of the playing arena and cheating is not seen as taboo; it seems to have become the "in thing" in sport. Whether it is headbutting an opponent or slapping him, nothing is seen against the spirit of the game.

People are fined for transgressions, but these fines don’t seem to deter sports persons these days. Some people are banned too, but often their bans are either reduced or rescinded completely. What we need is strict penalties/bans that pinches the pockets of the offenders. Compassion has to be limited and restricted; the spirit of the game should be above all considerations and ought to be maintained at all costs.

In India, sports administrators have put sports persons in the shade with their cheap acts. While there are many agencies that can punish athletes, there seems to be none — barring, of course, the courts of law — that can pull up sports officials for misdemeanor. And that is why they are getting away with murder, so to speak.
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