Cricket World Cup: Sporting Events Must Foster ‘Social Inclusion’

With the Cricket World Cup underway and everybody glued to their screens, many young cricket enthusiasts once again find themselves dreaming of either playing for their country, or at least getting to watch one of the matches live.

Sports after all, form an essential part of our collective consciousness, and in India, we take our sports – especially cricket – quite seriously. During international sporting events like the Cricket World Cup, people from various walks of life, who otherwise may differ on many things, come together, celebrating team spirit.

Sports, thus, signify the spirit of being – to compete, persist, socialise, and evolve. Sports may symbolise ‘adrenaline and competition’ at a very basic level, but at its core, the idea of sports caters to an understated facet: social inclusion.

A sport not just hones the skills of goal-setting but develops a strong sense of pluralism and tolerance. It provides the diverse people of the land with an opportunity to bring together their fluctuating energies, emotional highs, and emotional lows, to achieve a common goal.

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Building Social Inclusion Via Sports

The idea of sports resists hyper-individualism and self-centered consumerism, thus laying the foundation for social equality and cohesion. When we say ‘social inclusion’ we include the underprivileged or groups that face or are at the risk of facing discrimination in various capacities.

A sporting field or construct, by virtue of its very nature, encourages inter-cultural dialogue and a platform for the less privileged. For instance, there are various regional sports clubs that provide a level-playing field to migrants or people with disabilities.

So, how can sports perfectly bring about social inclusion? Certainly, a dedicated social network for sportspersons, including players, athletes, and coaches can help achieve this.

It can bring in sportsmen and sportswomen on a single platform and allow them to share their stories with one another.

So many stories and events from the past can be cited to showcase how a sport can erase the lines between two pieces of land, be it countries, states, cities, or even villages. When the boundaries between lands get blurred, the people, the players, and the athletes develop empathy and respect for the opponents and enrich their own character.

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Sports And Social Justice

Nelson Mandela in his first term as the South African President, initiated a unique venture to unite the apartheid-torn land. He joined forces with the then captain of the South African rugby team to help unite their country. He knew his nation was racially and economically divided in the wake of racial divide and violence. With the aim to bring his people together through the universal language of sport, Mandela rallied for South Africa's rugby team as they made their historic run to the 1995 Rugby World Cup Championship.

Taking inspiration from South Africa’s victory in the 1995 Rugby Championship, Laureus Sport For Good Foundation was established in 2000. It addressed a wide spectrum of social issues and was based on the principle that sports can bridge the gap in society and bring a positive change in the perspectives of people, towards equality.

For the past several years, many international organisations have been trying to leverage this aspect of sports to make the world more inclusive. Governments and groups which enjoy worldwide influence are using the humanistic side of sports to integrate migrants and immigrants, and provide some relief to refugees.

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How Sports Can Foster Cultural Integration

Between the late 1990s and early 2000s, various initiatives took off that focused on establishing sports as a tool for social change. NGOs and even the United Nations (UN) lent their support in for such initiatives.

Propagating the philosophy that sports aren’t just about competition and good health, but also about encouraging positive behaviour, the Vienna Institute of International Dialogue and Cooperation launched an initiative called FairPlay. Different colours, one game. It strongly opposed discriminatory behaviour and encouraged cohesion among players from across the world.

According to the United Nations, “Sport has a unique power to attract, mobilize and inspire. By its very nature, the sport is about participation. It is about inclusion and citizenship. It stands for human values such as respect for the opponent, acceptance of binding rules, teamwork, and fairness.”

Within the digital landscape, providing a dedicated networking platform will be a constructive way to show how social inclusion and sports are interlinked.

A dedicated social network for sports can greatly thrust this idea by letting aspiring players and athletes from different backgrounds and cultures connect with the sporting world. In a way, it can represent the entire sporting ecosystem, facilitate social integration, and break cultural and economic barriers.

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(Ashutosh Gupta is the author of ‘Equations of a Being: A Being Who Gathered Moss’. This is a personal blog. Views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for them.)

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