Sport and peace: Is there another side to sport?
The jail sentencing of three Pakistani cricketers, including Salman Butt (pictured), Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, for their roles in the spot-fixing scam has created an understandable uproar and according to Sally Walsh, senior lawyer in the Crown Prosecution services has “brought shame on the cricketing world” reports Robin Scott-Elliot.
The announcement of the cricketers’ conviction comes in the aftermath of another scandal in the world of football, that Chelsea captain John Terry allegedly racially abused QPR’s Anton Ferdinand, which is currently being investigated.
The news is deeply disheartening for those who value the integrity of sport; it is also disturbing for those who vehemently believe that sport can be used as a tool for creating peace, such as Kushil Gunasekera, whom I met a few years ago at a peace and reconciliation conference in Jordan.
Kushil is the founder of “The Foundation for goodness” in Sri Lanka an organisation that aims to promote peace and development through sport.
The foundation was established in 1999 in the rural village of Seenigama, southern Sri Lanka with a backdrop of a long civil war and then the added tragedy of the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004. The foundation improves the education and livelihood of those in rural regions but also facilitates sporting activities, including cricket to youths. Speaking with Gunasekera he says:
“Sport has the power to positively change many situations especially the traumatized like what I experienced post tsunami. It creates an active lifestyle building bridges of friendship by way of team work, unity, goodwill, understanding, harmony and peace.
Explaining further “Sport keeps away youth from engaging in unwanted practices paving the way to enhance their endurance, determination, confidence and the ‘never give up’ attitude.”
Gunasekera has even earned the support of legendary cricketers such as Ian Botham, who has visited the projects.
However, the utilisation of sport to create peace is not simply confined to cricket, but also includes football.
Anne Bunde- Birouste is the founding director of football United www.footballunited.org.au, which is a project which uses football as a conduit to promote social cohesion. The project uses football as a way of integrating young migrants into Australian society, many of whom are refugees and have difficulty acclimatizing to an Australian society, which is quite different from their own.
Birouste believes that the universal language of football can build bridges and promote multiculturalism and has thus far been highly successful.
Closer to home, The London Olympics 2012 announced that a record 193 UN member states have signed up for the Olympic Truce during summer next year.
Thus, I wonder whether the universal language of sport can make inroads to peace and social cohesion where politicians and others cannot.
In any case, these initiatives are welcomed and provide a positive image of sport, needed more so this week than ever.
Picture:Rex FeaturesTagged in: cricket peace, salman butt, social cohesion, Sport
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