Score Line

Has sport lost its soul?

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It must be raining tears from the gods of Greek mythology where they sit on Mount Olympus looking down on the sport fields of the world. The most inconsolable amongst them will be Nike.

The rain has become a drenching downpour at the moment, especially in the West Indies and India, with some showers threatening on South African cricket fields in the not too distant future.

The West Indies cricket team abandoned a series in India because of a protracted payment dispute between players and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). Now the team, who with their exciting approach to the game changed the face of it across the world, might not arrive in South Africa for their December/January tour.

Because of the commercial implications and huge financial losses caused by the abruptly ended tour in India, the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI), the richest national cricket controlling body in the world, has not only suspended all future tours with the Caribbean team, but has started legal action against the WICB.

But most of the pressure on the WICB comes from commercial sponsors of the game in the Caribbean. The chief executive of one of the biggest sponsors said it is the sponsors and other backers (of the game) who need to start pushing the WICB to make major changes.

And that brings us to the source of Nike’s sorrow. It must be clear to the goddess of victory, who became the icon of sport in modern times, that she has lost the soul of sport to Mammon, who first made his appearance in the Sermon of the Mount in the Bible.

Mammon became the personification of excessive pursuit of material wealth and greed, a false god that is sometimes included in the seven princes of hell.

To add insult to injury for the Nike of Greek mythology, even her name has been hijacked by a commercial enterprise that has become one of the bigger sponsors in world sport.

For the West Indies in particular it is more than just cricket as a sport that is at stake. On the socio-political front the ‘greater good’ that sport offers is also threatened.

In this regard, consider the words of one of cricket’s all-time greats, Clive Lloyd: “Cricket remains the instrument of Caribbean cohesion.”

Last week The Economist (nogal) wrote: “After the short-lived dream of the West Indies Federation, which united the former British islands of the Caribbean in 1958-62, little more than the pre-existing regional cricket team survived …”

And who can forget what winning the Rugby World Cup in 1995 did for the cohesion of the ‘Rainbow Nation’ born in South Africa just the year before.

Not just cricket

And it is not just on the cricket pitches of the world that Mammon has been soiling the soul of modern sport.

Remember the very recent controversy around the ‘Springbok contract’ of that outstanding rugby utility back Francois Steyn?

To this can be added the many money-rooted controversies around mega international sporting events and the personalities involved, like football’s Sepp Blatter; the ongoing costly legacy of white elephant stadiums left by the Football World Cup 2010 in South Africa; and many more.

When it comes to the world of sport, Mammon seldom seems to sleep – if at all.

                                                                                                                                        Steve Spectator

(Steve Spectator is the collective pseudonym of the group of authors who will be writing our regular Score Line column that starts this week.)

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