Throughout the last two years, one thing that has been consistent is the need for community, sharing life’s experiences, staying connected; whether physically or virtually, and surviving the unknown together. Throughout the turbulent happenings of COVID-19 and its variants, society has forged on to keep life going in the most normal way possible. One of the surest ways to have this done is through sports.
Sports; the system of activities based on physical athleticism or dexterity. To nurture physical fitness and social interaction skills, major sports competitions such as the Olympic Games, the soccer world cup and even the African Cup of Nations have been an ongoing tradition for years. The unique nature of sports is its ability to unify people who are often separated by race, language barriers, and in recent times, communicable diseases. It has provided worldwide inspiration, taught about diverse cultures and resolved disagreements even if only for a brief period of time.
In football and basketball, the transfer window in sports, shows its power to bring people together. It is a period where players all over the world are recruited into teams and leagues. It is in the transfer window that we find teams and clubs in different continents, recruit players from South America to Africa, thus stimulating world-wide interest for football/basketball. In the Ghana Premier league, Brazilian player, Fabio Gama and Cameroonian player, Franck Etouga Mbella, who both play for Asante Kotoko drew attention to diverse organizations that unite people.
Whether on the court, field or arena, these international tournaments give players the chance to interact and communicate with people from other cultures. Thus, breaking stereotypes, changing perceptions of foreign cultures and allowing integration of the larger worldwide community. Fans can also learn more about international players’ homes, attaching names and faces to cultures they otherwise would not have known much about. Memorialized in the film “Invictus,” newly elected South African president Nelson Mandela used Rugby to help bring his country and the world together. The Rugby World Cup took place in Johannesburg in 1995 when the sport had typically been viewed as “all-white”. Mandela, needing to calm a nation in the new post-apartheid era, donned his country’s team colors and strutted onto the field to chants of “Nelson” from the crowd. This singular act caused a change in the perception of sports in south Africa and caused a ripple effect all over the continent and the world.
Events like the Olympics and the World Cup ignite enthusiasm in fans from all over the world as they experience different cultures even while cheering for their own teams. After Senegal’s triumph in the AFCON 2021, millions trooped to the center of the country’s capital, Dakar, to welcome the victorious national football team. President Macky Sall also declared the next Monday after the final match a national holiday to allow the people of Senegal celebrate the team’s victory. When there is a victory, people forget about their problems, strangers become friends, rivals reconcile – and thats is the power of sports.
Sports has a unique ability to communicate essential massages promote cultural inclusiveness and tolerance, and bring people together in a divided society. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.“
Sports will continue to drive social reform and increase cultural acceptance by offering a shared platform for all humanity to come together. Sports is not just an activity; it is a way of life.
Written by: Princeton Kwabena Wiredu
Head of Sports