Sports and Societies

France has just won 2-0 against Nigeria (It’s 11:00PM, 30/06/14, here): there are horns blowing, people laughing and yelling, and motorists brandishing French flags. We're in the middle of the FIFA World Cup 2014, and I can't help questioning the influence of sports on our society.

Likewise, cultures and values affect how and what sports are played by who, where and when. Sports have been in our lives as entertainment and leisure, as part of a political strategy, as an economic activity, as cultural means aimed at establishing relationships, and to show power and strength. In the middle ages, sport was used to settle disputes, punish, revenge and attract attention of women (e.g. jousting with swords, daggers and lances).

These days, football (Europe)/soccer (Australia & USA) is used as a platform to assert one’s national identity with flag bearing, singing of national anthem and wearing emblems before, during and after the games. In developed, developing and underdeveloped nations, football has faced new challenges due to globalisation, commercialisation and mediatisation which have both positive and negative outcomes.

In Belgium, football is viewed as a cementing force between the Flemings in the north (Netherlander: Flemish speaking) and the Walloons in the south and east (French speaking). Highly-paid footballers from humble socio-economic backgrounds have become multi-millionaires and influential.

On the other hand, the hosting of the World Cup costs billions which go a long way in a developing country (like Brazil). It's no surprise then that the 1994 Golden Ball winner Romario, who's now a member of the Brazilian Parliament, has been reported to have said that the money should have been spent better for health and education.

Football and other sports (it's also the Grand Slam tournaments season in Wimbledon, London) have fattened up some economic sectors, livened up socio-cultural situations and provided excitements to the populace. However, most of these games are held on weekends, so there's less time for family outing, helping others, volunteering and going to church as most time is spent in front of the TV. Verbal and physical abuses take place during matches and sometimes at home when family members don't share the same enthusiasm for the same sports and winning teams. In France, last week, there were damages on properties during the victory celebrations for Algeria's qualification after a draw with Russia.

A book can be written on the pluses and minuses of sports, but it's not my intention. I would only like to emphasise a very obvious yet important subject, i.e. the players or athletes. Players are revered by children and adults alike and should be role models for good manners and behaviours and catalysts for positive changes (e.g. more just, environmentally-friendly and livable society). Players (as well as officials, coaches and fans) should practise zero tolerance on violence (including biting and kicking) and racism on/off the fields. (from my website BRolade Societal Blog - roladesocietalblog.com)

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