Of sports and pelf!

Sport is fast assuming the guise of a passport to making quick money

Khalid Saleem April 08, 2019
The writer is former ambassador of Pakistan and ex-Assistant Secretary General of OIC

One recalls coming across a piece in the media several years back about a young lady who was addicted to the game of tennis. It was given out that the lady in question had sequestered fame and a fortune amounting to several million dollars all before attaining the age of twenty years.

If all went well, she was stated to be well on her way to join the select group of the wealthiest women on earth. And all because of what was once just a sport of gentlemen and gentlewomen!

In the game of golf, successful players are not considered as such unless they have amassed a purse of several million dollars. The worth of a player is measured not so much by his or her mastery of the game but by the money he or she has managed to amass over a certain period of time. It is something of a tragedy that most sports today have degenerated into money-spinning rackets. In the world of sports, principle has given way to pelf.

Has the perspicacious reader ever taken time off to fathom why it has become virtually a routine nowadays for sportsmen in international competitions to be subjected to what have come to be known in popular parlance as ‘doping tests’? It would appear to be one of the corollaries of the advance in medical sciences.

Athletes, consequently, take advantage of new discoveries to use what have come to be known as ‘performance enhancing drugs’. This practice has put in jeopardy what was once proudly touted as ‘the spirit of sportsmanship’.

Sport today is no longer a contest among youth but has degenerated into a money-spinning exercise. Sport is fast assuming the guise of a passport to making quick money. It would appear that the days are gone when sportsmen and sportswomen competed for glory alone.

Sportsmen of today are hardly a patch on the celebrated heroes of yesteryear. Not an inconsiderable number are in sports merely for the money and not at all for the love of the sport in question. There are, of course, several honourable exceptions that still hold on to the hallowed values that once sanctified sport.

Does the reader recall the good old days when winning a sports competition was in itself an end worth striving for; when there was no greater glory to strive for than to have the honour of representing one’s country on the playing field? Being on the team was what mattered most and the acclaim of victory was the coveted prize for a true sportsman.

All this was before pelf became the end all and be all of sport. Now it is the figure on the check that is the prime attraction, all else takes the back seat. So much for the glory of sport!

Not all that long ago, the Olympic Games used to be a competition strictly for amateurs. It was undeniable that prosperous countries did all they could to pamper their sportsmen. But still, by and large, the sportsmen and sportswomen participating in the Olympic Games were not ‘mercenary’.

It is in the archives that in the late 1950s a medal won by a wrestler from a developing country was challenged on the grounds that the winner had a few years earlier accepted a remuneration equivalent to five dollars after winning a wrestling bout in his country. The world of sports has come a long way since then.

Agents and lawyers do big business in the world of sport these days. And so do bookmakers. Millions of dollars change hands — all in the good name of sport! At times one does recall with nostalgia the good old days of amateur sport. Despite the shortcomings and the absence of glitz, sport had a charm all its own. The world cannot but regret the passing away of an era.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2019.

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