Those who fall in love with soccer whenever the FIFA World Cup rolls by with a new edition are in good company. Shopkeepers and office goers, CEOs and civil servants, housewives and socialites- they all have an opinion on which team is likely to succeed at the magnum opus event. The fact is that most of us get our predictions wrong, except Paul the German octopus, who amazingly predicted the results of most matches of the 2010 World Cup correctly. Nevertheless, our lack of strategic insight does not prevent us from expounding our views to whoever will listen. My own favourites Germany, Spain and Brazil have all lost and I am on the lookout for a new team to root for, but time is running out!
The point is that sports make us peppier and help us imbibe sunnier outlooks, whether we play them, watch them, read about them, or simply talk about them. What matters is not the level of knowhow which we laymen possess about a particular sport, but the intensity and passion with which we follow it. Thus people who discuss sports, as opposed to discussing politics or crime, are more likely to be happy people, with positive vibes. Sheer joy can unfold in one’s consciousness while watching an artist like Cristiano Ronaldo weave a web around opposing defenders, the ball seemingly glued to his feet, or the electrifying 19 year old French forward, Kylian Mbappe, who runs like greased lightning on the field.
The football World Cup is a hard act to emulate, but sports lovers actually have the option of switching channels and watching Roger Federer create magical moments of his own at Wimbledon, where he has now waltzed into the third
round. A dreamy drop shot of his against a hapless opponent at the world’s most famous grass courts is going viral on the internet these days, and people are left wondering how a 36 year old can command his body and mind to produce artistry of the kind he does on the tennis court, even today.
And die-hard Indian cricket lovers, though their numbers are dwindling, can opt to watch the likes of Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and the spin-twins, Yazuvender Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, paint their own canvases during Team India’s England tour, with ball, bat or gloves in hand. Badminton stars PV Sindhu and Sania Mirza are also artists of their craft and their world beating exploits on the court make us feel truly proud to be Indian.
The fact remains that a society which plays, follows or organizes sport will surely be a more positive society. When people bunch up around a public television set and pat strangers on the back if their country scores a goal in a world cup match, they feel on top of the world themselves. Sport also leads to greater empowerment of sections of society that are otherwise economically backward. It is no secret that boys and girls from rural areas, with fewer facilities than their urban counterparts, are often able to outdo their luckier brethren on the sports field.
Many of us grew up in India, often praying for yet another century by Sunil Gavaskar to save a Test Match, or recounting in awe-struck fashion the sheer brilliance of the West Indian cricket team, studded as it was with diamonds like Vivian Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner and MichaelHolding. We would then go out to play and pretend that we were as good as our idols, with make-shift bats and rubber balls in hand.
By stressing to our children the need to play outdoors regularly and to adopt at least one sport for life, we will do yeoman’s service to the generations of tomorrow. By making sports an integral part of their lives they will become
balanced and healthy human beings.
By becoming dedicated sports lovers they will avoid many ills which can afflict impressionable minds and could invade their happiness in times to come. And when a young Indian tennis star plays a Federer-like drop shot at Wimbledon’s centre court fifteen years from now, these sports lovers will pat strangers on the back and feel on top of the world.