Friday, August 31, 2007

Why countries become so obsessed with ONE sport?

This summer has been much without Sun in the British Isles; however that has not stopped the mass enthusiasm to outing. While sitting at the Brighton beach (largely pebbled) reading or enjoying my time with family I observed an interesting phenomenon. On the grassy areas of Hove (actually?) largely one sport was in sight.


The sport reminded me an event which occurred about 4 years ago while I had just started my life in Liverpool. While I got my first accommodation in Liverpool my flat owner (who also lived in the flat as I was supposed occupy one of the rooms only) asked me on the 2nd day which football club I followed. I am not really a football fan but do watch few matches and know some players (by their names only) however, that day just out of sheer excitement (and probably an urge to show him how much I knew football) I stated Man United. He nearly exploded saying, if he knew this before he would not have rented the room to me. This is when I realised the importance of football in the UK (and my half-baked knowledge of the new culture I was going to spend a good part of my life in).

Being an Indian, I now follow both Britain and India in their sporting endeavours and get really amazed as to how these countries have become obsessed with largely one sport. In case of Britain it is football while the national sport remains cricket and in the case of India football is replaced by cricket as the most popular sport while the national sport remains to be field hockey.

While looking at the records, one can’t really understand the mass obsession to a specific sport. For example, one can observe that Britain has not won a cricket world cup (organized every four years with about 16 nations of the world participating) since its inception (been a runner up twice in 1987 and 1992). This could give a good reason that people do not like to follow a team which is not able to win and be on the top of their game in that specific sport. But hey, let’s check football and England have won it once in 1966 and have been in fourth place in 1990. This does not seem far off from the cricket performance.

Taking the case of India, for the national sport (field hockey) India won the hockey world cup in 1975 and has been runner up in 1973. Since last 30 years it has not been able to achieve any of the top 3 spots. The decline in public interest is obvious. However, cricket is not much of a different story when compared. India won the world cup in 1983 and have been runner up only once in 2003.

The records of both countries in both sports show an interesting and similar pattern. Both are not very good at both sports. However, when it comes to football and cricket, British and Indian masses go hysteric.

Statement such as "Some people think football is not just a matter of life and death: it's much more important than that" -- Bill Shankly

“Cricket is the only uniting God in multi-religious India” -- Paurav Shukla

… really summarise the mood.

Watching the IAAF (ask most of these football and cricket fans about the full form of it) world championship in Osaka, Japan and observing the performance of both countries I could not resist myself asking this question. How come countries get obsessed with one sport? While 50 or so British athletes and 13 member team of India are participating and in case of Britain some medal winning performances have been witnessed the media as well as the masses have taken little notice of it. Almost all British newspapers are full with some footballer’s injury or some drug scandal in the football world in the sports pages. Some of these news items even make headlines for some newspapers. The same is the case for India however the sport is cricket.

If with such small teams these countries are doing so good in other sports (writing off India largely here for athletics) why not focus on them instead of these over obsessed sports where both these countries are failing to really make a mark.

I am quite sure if media provides a channel of communication for the other sports the younger generation can learn more from the struggle of those hidden champions (leaving apart some) than these over egged, hyper-egoist and enormously overpaid footballers and cricketers.