Sport unites. Sport divides. Sport kills.

2012-10-13 13:25

You’ve heard how sport unites. You’ve heard how it bridges divides, ends wars, brings a nation together. We’ve all heard that. Yes, we feel it because Philip was here not so long ago.

We remember what we were doing on that day in 1992, when beamed on our television screens were the words: “To win, South Africa need 22 runs off 1 ball.” We cried together when the Proteas, in their first Cricket World Cup post isolation were on the verge of doing the impossible, but were stopped in their tracks by the Australian weather gods.

We can all remember the happiness we felt when Joost van der Westhuizen, Joel Stransky and Francois Pienaar jumped for joy when the ref blew the full time whistle on that 1995 afternoon at Ellis Park. So great was the day, that it spawned a Hollywood blockbuster.

There were other moments. Bafana Bafana beating Tunisia in the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations final; when the Boks repeated their 1995 heroics by lifting the World Cup in 2007, South Africans of all races took to the streets and rejoiced.

And then there was the big one. A certain day in June of 2010 which not only united South Africans, but the world. The moment is etched in the memories of everyone that was fortunate to be in the country during that festive moment.

I was on Long Street in Cape Town, and I had never in my life experienced such a moment. Black people, white people, coloured people, bruin mense, Brazilians, Nigerians, Germans, and three Swiss ladies ensured that it would be difficult to top the festive mood of that day.

Former president Nelson Mandela once said: “Sport has the power to change the world, it has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair.”

However, sport has a dark side. As much as it can unite different people, it can also paint painful lines of divisions. It can kill.

A prime example being the fact that two cities in England, who are the homes of two of the biggest football clubs on the planet, simply detest each other.

This was evident not so long ago when Manchester United took on Liverpool at Anfield for the first time since the Mersyside club’s fans were cleared of any wrong doing in the event that saw the loss of 96 lives in Hillsborough in 1989.

The day had started so well with United sending out Sir Bobby Charlton, himself a survivor of a tragedy, to lay a wreath in memory of the deceased.

Both clubs then walked on to the field wearing “Justice for the 96” on their backs. A poignant moment if there ever was one.

But, the events that occurred after the final whistle will forever paint a bad image of Liverpool Football Club and their fans.

United had stood by them in their moment of hurt. Why then did a number of them ridicule the fact that the club had lost eight of its own players in 1958?

United fans responded with chants of “Always the victim! Never your fault!”

How much extra security does a Pakistan/India cricket game require? What about the time the United States and Iran met each other at the football World Cup?

In South Africa, when we are pissed off, one of the first things we mouth off is something hateful. “Oh, the Boks didn’t win the World Cup. It’s Saru’s fault.

They’ve been messing up since they elected that black guy.” Or, what about: “Why doesn’t Lambie start for the Boks? Is it because he’s not Afrikaans?”

Sport, although it sometimes brings out the best in us, it sometimes does bring us to our knees. 79 people lost their lives in a riot at Port Said Stadium in Egypt earlier this year. Al-Masry supporters stormed the pitch and attacked Al-Ahly players. It escalated and people died.

What about last year, when seemingly civilised Canucks went crazy and literally burnt down parts of downtown Vancouver? Sundowns fans attacking their own coach? What about racial slurs being thrown around at Loftus, or other rugby stadium in the country?

Yes, we can harp on about how “sport brings hope warra warra warra”, but let us not forget that it is sport that some of the big divides in our world still remain to this day.

So, what are you going to do? Move to the moon? Purchase Mars? Buy the sun?

It’s not always your fault. But, you’re going to have to stop being the victim.

Follow @KingBiyela on Twitter.

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