It is not just individuals who experience economic amelioration as a result of sports. Countries do too
What is the definition of sports? Indeed, it is more than just the generic meaning a swift google search would suggest. In fact, it is much more. It is more thorough, more compelling, and by all means more impactful. The definition of sports can be considered by some as never-ending, for the effect of sports on the society is never-ending. Sports bring joy, create jobs, improve fitness, reduce anxiety, promote patriotism, boost nations' morale, nurture diplomacy, teach valuable life lessons, enhance GDP, and so on. There is a reason why the United Nations has declared sports a human right.
The factor to consider is that sports do not need a specific venue to be conducted - they can be done at any place at any time, from a sold-out stadium of 80,000 viewers to the narrow street outside of your home. From any military training camp in the world to the icy hills in Greenland, sports are performed almost everywhere in some way, shape or form. Even when humans are not physically playing sports, we tend to involve ourselves in them in other ways. We watch sports on television, we play them on video games, we debate about them amongst friends, we make up fantasy leagues, and a few, like myself, write about them. For some, sports are so deeply cemented in their daily routines that a day without sports for them is a day incomplete. But why is that? What is so special about kicking a football, or throwing a basketball which makes it so valuable? Why are the best performers in sports given celebrity status? All these questions once again route back to the never-ending and impactful definition of sports.
Let us take a crucial element of the definition: 'sports create jobs'. There are innumerable examples of a career in sports taking an individual from 'zero to hero'. The example that many have heard of is that of Cristiano Ronaldo. Growing up on the small Madeira Island in Portugal, with little-to-no money, young Cristiano could have never envisaged the impact football would have on his lifestyle. Now with pockets perhaps deeper than the Pacific Ocean, a multi-million-dollar contract with Nike, too many cars to count, and being one of the greatest athletes of all time, Ronaldo's hard work and dedication to sports elevated his life to unimaginable levels.
Michael Jordan's rise to the top in basketball is another inspirational story. A basketball career seemed implausible for Jordan after he was kicked out from his high school team for lacking skills. However, his resilient belief that 'I can accept failure, but I cannot accept not trying,' led him to become arguably the greatest to play that sport.
It is not just individuals who experience economic amelioration as a result of sports. Countries do too. The nation which gets the honour of hosting a major sporting event thrives from the influx of revenue as a result of tourism and sponsorship deals. According to The Moscow Times, Russia received roughly $15 billion windfall from the 2018 World Cup, a figure which surely augmented the economy with hundreds of billions of rubles. The US economy gets boosted every year with the North American sports market estimated to be worth around $73.5 billion in 2019, as reported by Forbes.
A factor that heavily contributes to this is that almost every major sport - football, basketball, American football, ice hockey, boxing, and baseball - is played at the highest levels in America. This should also be a learning curve for Pakistan, a country which certainly doesn't lack talent, as demonstrated recently in the Commonwealth Games, but may lack the adequate training facilities that can pilot the country's success to the moon. We are starting to hear new and exciting names such as Arshad Nadeem, Inam Butt, Nooh Dastagir and Talha Talib. Seeing our country on the top is all we can ask for, especially during these economically turbulent times. The government must play its role and provide the necessary resources.
Jordan Peterson explains in his book titled '12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos' that every town has its local heroes who have 'the opportunity to enjoy the serotonin-fuelled confidence of the victor'. These heroes demonstrate such talents that the town locals have never seen or imagined. Once again, Pakistan is no different, with roughly 45,000 villages and 354 cities with a population higher than 10,000, the lack of talent is no issue, but it is just a matter of hunting down the talent and providing a platform for the skills to be shown.
We must train the youth, we must give them chances, we must build stadiums for them, we must encourage viewership and we must certainly not lose hope. For it may be the hope that kills you, but it is also the very same hope which wins you accolades and makes your country stand out.
Yahya Ali is an Islamabad-based freelance contributor, currently studying Law at Queen Mary University of London.