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Sport - A matter of life and death

Published: 
Sunday, March 18, 2018

Come on, it’s not a matter of life and death’, said some Job-like comforter, following a defeat in a football match. ‘No’, replied Bill Shankly, the former Scottish player and Liverpool FC manager during their days of pre-eminence. Some people think football is a matter of life or death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that,” Shakily added on a Granada Television chat-show in May of 1981.

Years after his words have such potent meaning and effect and can be examined and interpreted in more ways than one. Of course, we are made to understand that sports, a football or cricket game is just a game and “it’s not the end of the world.” We hear that everyday whether on the track, on the school ground or after we’ve witnessed our favourite side suffer a defeat. But perhaps it’s a notion that works against us and works in favour of those who have the cutting edge and continue to excel or dominate. You see, while I’m saying that one should not lose his life because of failure to bring home gold or win a football match, sport on a whole is in some ways a matter of life and death. Surely, if the T&T Pro League was to collapse in 2018, players and officials will not end up dead or at least we hope they will not, but what something to this effect could lead to is someone’s life taking a different course or can in fact be the death or demise of a lifelong dream to become someone better in society. So yes, it is a matter of life and death. Some may argue it will be the death of football in T&T.

When an athlete makes it to a professional level in any sport, their commitment and obligation to perform at a high level shouldn’t be simply desired by the fans, but expected. Televised sports, specifically, create assured fixations by commodifying athletes and their actions. This means the athlete has to be held accountable and so too the sporting body.

The world of sports encourages commercialism, sexism, and most importantly, nationalism. “The Iraqi national football team ultimately became an agency of national identity and pride for their country. Many argue that the Iraqi team helped tackle the issues of terrorism in Iraq, as even the media was depicting their “heroism”.

Overall, it is essential that we examine sports from both a business and societal viewpoint before we view them as spectators or fans. Sport is a human institution, a universal phenomenon which serves to instil a sense of belonging or meaning to many individuals lives, a research paper stated. Let us not place value on athletes only, let us place value on the impact their profession has on humanity; the realization of athletes as commodities and sport as a political and financial aiding service will help reshape the perception that sport is merely a means of amusement and diversion from personal hardships. Our world can exist without the arrogance and egotism attributed to certain athletes, and it can surely exist without the barefaced disregard several sport organisations have for their dedicated fan base and athletes, but all parties must in fact stop seeing sport as just a pastime or a timely “good feel” occurrence. But, we may question whether or not this world can function without the hidden values embedded in competitors and the communal insight sports give us on a national scale. So yes, it is a matter of life and death.

Some “casual” athletes perform not for financial gain or professional esteem, but simply as a way of living. Take the countless athletes who run for no prizes or the groundsmen who work simply because they want their team to have the best suitable conditions, or the 50-year-old lady who runs to improve her lifestyle and to become an inspiration for a younger generation. These individuals have no quandary when it comes to becoming a role model; take T&TOC President Brian Lewis for instance, he does not need a $25 million budget to execute his craft at a high level or to set dreams of 10 golds by 2024.. Lewis places expectations and limitations on himself and others must follow and not just talk it.

The idea of “winning” is something that fuels competition and with competition, we are driven to excel in our different fields. Excelling means a better life with happiness and greater opportunities to lead and inspire others. Failing means potential demise and just possibly the “death” of a dream that if realised would mean a greater future.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Shaun Fuentes was a FIFA media officer at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and is a CONCACAF tournament’s press officer. He has worked in countries such as Nigeria, Morocco, Turkey, Brazil, Egypt, Panama, Bahamas, USA and the UK among others as a media operations manager.

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