Melvin Yeo, Pi’s second new sports editor, on why sport is so so great
Think of someone from Portugal. Is the first name on your mind a politician or musician? Unlikely. Instead you will probably think of Cristiano Ronaldo, the best footballer in the world. This is proof of sport’s ability to transcend language, boundaries and culture. It can bind complete strangers together to bring out the full range of emotions in us, from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. The drama of sport brings us back to our primitive tribal roots. Sport is all about passion and rivalry. Sport is a way of life.
Here are some examples of sport’s all-encompassing reach.
“What would you be if you weren’t a footballer?”
Peter Crouch: “A virgin”
Sport in society
The defining characteristics of Europeans can be drawn from their countries’ national football teams. The Germans are efficient, the Italians are passionate and the English are no-nonsense. Such clichés exist for a reason because they have some semblance of truth. Besides, stereotypes allow us take ourselves a little less seriously and engage in a bit of self-deprecating humour.
Sport in culture
Madrid and Barcelona are survivors of a battle of ideology that once used football as a political tool. The flag for Catalonia’s fight for independence was carried by FC Barcelona and Real Madrid were known to be Franco’s team for good reason. Today, the battle for hearts and mind occur on the pitch but is still as vociferous ever. Witness the pig head thrown at Luis Figo when he was taking a corner in the 2002 El Clasico.
Sport in history
Relationships between China and the United States thawed after a bout of ping-pong diplomacy. The US table tennis team was invited to tour China, opening up a previously non-existent relationship between the two countries. A few months later, Richard Nixon became the first President to visit the People’s Republic of China.
Sport in our everyday lives
Cutting-edge technology can be found at the highest level of sport. Some of its innovations have trickled down into our everyday lives. For instance, traction control and carbon fibre found their way to road cars from Formula 1 in less than twenty years. Expect the Ford Mondeo to have KERS in 2025.
Even though these overarching effects are impressive, the most powerful impact of sport that one can feel is on a personal level. For me, sport has cultivated my interest in European history and culture ever since I fell in love with football. When I travel, the most natural icebreaker is to start a conversation about the city’s football team. The most fleeting moments in sport has given pure unadulterated joy in the past. Now I realise it can provide something less transient. It can act as a pathway to absorb different cultures and to forge friendships when abroad. Sport holds a special place in everyone’s hearts. What does sport mean to you?
Featured image credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-G00630 / CC-BY-SA