Formula none – Newspaper – DAWN.COM

THE interplay of sport and politics is a fascinating study. From Formula 1 to freestyle wrestling, politics permeates everything. Not just the inner workings of these sporting activities and their parent organizations like FIFA and the International Olympic Committee, but actual political actors, world leaders, movements and interest groups who benefit from humanity’s great admiration for athletes.

According to Desmond Morris, author of The Naked Ape, sport is the best substitute for the earliest human survival activities, i.e. hunting and defending and/or expanding hunting grounds (read: wars). The bullet has replaced either the prey or the arrow; the goalpost is the bullseye, and the trophy, which the victor holds up for the entire stadium to see, is the symbolic scalp of the commander of the vanquished army – usually the king in olden times.

From Hitler’s Olympics, where his theory of Aryan supremacy was devastated by African-American athlete Jesse Owens, to Mohammad Ali, who sacrificed his boxing titles and served a sentence for calling Vietnam an unjust war, to the PLO’s publicity stunt at the Olympics in Munich – the entanglement of sport with politics and the associated blood and blood seems inevitable.

Sports symbols such as the sword, arrow and cricket bat have been adopted as insignia by political parties in Pakistan, which has also witnessed other aspects of the interplay between politics and sports. The 1992 Cricket World Cup produced a sports hero known for both his looks and his cricket skills. All that was left for the political kindergarten, euphemistically dubbed “the establishment,” was to adopt him and teach him how to use his fame to rise to power – in the greater national interest, of course.

Teams were taught to play rough and dirty.

The same coaches who put Imran Khan through his paces had also involved the country in a regional ‘great game’ and teams were taught to play rough and dirty – no sportsmanship there. Smashing the pitch is an old cricket trick used by rival village teams in big city stadiums to deny their rivals victory. The grisly attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in 2009 not only damaged Pakistan’s image in the short term but also destroyed its international cricket field for a long time.

As Pakistan tended its wounds and its native tormentors grew stronger and bolder, morphing into Frankenstein’s monsters – not just biting the hand that fed them, but attempting to swallow the “eaters” whole – the fingers of their idealologists began to close burn fire that they had kindled.

While girls in Afghanistan do not know if they will ever go back to school, and academic institutions in different parts of Pakistan issue decrees requiring female students to wear the hijab, the ideologues chose to drop their strictures in their desert sheikdoms. Suddenly, art museums, sports galas, mixed-gender concerts and movie theaters are all the rage as carbon fuel and free ports alone will no longer suffice. For us, however, official oil with deferred payments – interest rates unknown – and unofficial funding for seminars remain the norm. The seeds of sectarian violence sown in the surrogate wombs of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh continue to reproduce the offspring of hate as their biological parents proceed to rebrand themselves as moderates.

Returning to the sport and its entanglement with politics, while Pakistan still hasn’t fully recovered from the attack on visiting Sri Lankans, a Houthi missile strike from Yemen almost came close to the F1 Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia in March this year disturbed. The race went on and left many questions.

The much-maligned Marcos family is back in power in the Philippines, despite the country’s infatuation with boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, whose popularity at one point seemed to bring down every politician in the country. Over here another sports star is biding his time, hedging his bets. He lacks nothing in the looks department, and what’s more, he wasted no time pretending to pursue academic pursuits at Oxbridge, like so many descendants of the privileged before him.

Nooh Butt and Arshad Nadeem recently gave the country a booster dose of self-esteem by winning gold medals in weightlifting and javelin respectively at the Commonwealth Games. You deserve all the admiration and accolades. It is hoped they will be properly rewarded for their lifelong dedication to their chosen sport and for bringing glory to the country. However, one also hopes that the “nursery” will leave them alone and not throw them into the political arena. No prizes to guess whether there would have been newspaper pages celebrating our swimmers if they had won the same Commonwealth Games. Go on, people! Applaud them for their participation, it will not affect the oil on deferred payment deal.

The writer is a poet. His latest publication is a collection of satirical essays entitled Rindana.
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Published in Dawn, August 21, 2022

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