Need for a broader view

September 22, 2019

Whenever I listen to some cerebral at a sports function, he never forgets to mention an age-old and perhaps the only dictum he knows: healthy mind is possessed by a healthy body. It is this limited...

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Whenever I listen to some cerebral at a sports function, he never forgets to mention an age-old and perhaps the only dictum he knows: healthy mind is possessed by a healthy body. It is this limited knowledge of sports and our ignorance of its different aspects that have restricted the growth of sports in its different, capacities and virtues.

In societies where sports are played and understood in its full spectrum and where millions of people participate in it in one way or another, sports are valued in a more holistic manner.

A country which was once respected as one of the best in Asia in a number of sports and was the global powerhouse of hockey, squash and cricket lost its way due to lack of research in international sports development, mismanagement of available resources, lack of vision and knowledge among the sports leaders, and nepotism.

Nelson Mandela once said that sports are probably the most effective means of communication in the modern world. It cuts across all cultural and language barriers.

Paul De Knop, a renowned sport socialist, undertook a research in the Vrije University of Brussels which is 180 years old, with huge impact on social, economic and cultural innovations. He explained 24 different functions and dimensions of sports which if understood properly can help policy makers develop a holistic sports culture with thinking that goes beyond the healthy minds in healthy bodies adage.

De Knop highlights economic significance of sports which can be measured through the three yardsticks of production, expenditure and employment. He explains that more than three percent of world trade is linked with sports.

While explaining the democratising effect of sports, he says that sports maintain the balance of power among people belonging to different social classes, of different ages, practising various religions and living in different regions.

He also explains the recuperative function of sports. Knop says that sports encourage communication, provides common symbols, and gives a collective identity.

He says that both sports events and sports centres can function as sources of national pride and strength, enabling the citizens of a country to feel more unified.

Knop also touches upon “military function” of sports, which has become vital for Pakistani youth in our current standoff with India.

The sovereignty of any nation is not guaranteed only by the strength of its armed forces, but also by its determination to defeat its adversaries under all circumstances.

Introduction of combat sports in education institutions would be a far better option than reviving outdated National Cadet Corps (NCC).

Stress is part of modern day life. The release function of sports serves as safety valve for the general public participating in variety of sports activities. Sports are perhaps the most effective way of channeling aggression and a means of dealing with stress.

Sports are also a means of personal development, which leads to a feeling of self-worth.

In Pakistan we have used sports as an instrument of foreign policy on a few occasions, but we are still unaware of its ability to settle international conflicts, to propagate out-of-the-box themes like “Muslim Muscularity”.

De Knop in his research paper explains how sports enhance personal and collective status of athletes and nations. He dwells upon the social control aspect of sports, the interactive function, the pleasurable experience and obviously the much talked about health function.

Pakistan today faces multiple social, political and security challenges. At policy level, the macro aspects of sports need to be understood. The policy makers need to understand that sports can also help minimise criminality and drug problems.

It also has the potential to counteract the poor school performance and truancy, to improve the quality of life in fast-growing towns and cities through emancipation projects.

In order to achieve these objectives, the policy makers must have the knowledge of how to incorporate sports in the overall development agenda.

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