Sunday, December 21, 2008

I watch a hockey match

Last month, my husband and I went to the Mumbai Hockey Association’s stadium to watch kids from Akanksha Foundation play a match.
A glorious bright Sunday.
My husband is a huge sports enthusiast, and has been speaking to Akanksha about helping with their sports initiatives. So we went to take a look at some of their efforts.
It was just a local match, so the stands were empty except for a few of us who came to cheer the Akanksha team. I found myself enjoying the sense of space.
Some of us Akanksha supporters under the cool pavillion
Scoreboard at the Mahindra Stadium
The match started out with high hopes, but as the game progressed, there was much moaning and agonizing over every lost goal (the other team had much better, more seasoned players!). The samosa-walla provided a very welcome diversion.
Five rupees for two samosas. Extra chutney for free.
As everyone queued up for samosas, I realized once again how much I like going to small local club-level competitions. There is something homely and warm about cheering for players who you know. It’s even nicer when you know the people in the audience and can exchange “expert” comments or wisecracks. Compared to “big league”, serious, competitive sport (NBA Playoffs, cricket matches), I find that this sort of almost intimate sporting experience is much more satisfying for me.
To tell the truth, I am not a big fan of commercially organised sport. I’m not sure why - perhaps I don’t like the like the advertising and sponsorships and media frenzy. Or perhaps I don’t like the way huge numbers of sports fans become polarized, especially when games are played across countries. (Did you watch the Olympics? Surely people don’t need MORE ways to pit themselves against each other and prove that “we” are better than “them”?).

But I suspect the real reason that I don’t like organized sports is because I understand all too well that sports is a substitute for war. When I watch an India-Pak match on TV, or football hooliganism, it reminds me that humans are an aggressive, unattractive, jingoistic species.

Of course, it isn’t as black and white as that. Games teach us how to cooperate with each other to achieve common goals. They teach discipline and hard work. They help us learn how to handle defeat.

More important, they teach us how to overcome odds. On a recent trip to Masai Mara, we were on a long dusty drive between two villages, when I saw a long-distance runner on a training run. I don’t think he had access to fancy equipment or expensive coaching, but he wasn’t letting that stop him. When we passed him, running alone under the vast Kenyan sky, he raised his hands and smiled a broad smile – it was both a greeting and a victory sign. To me, this is among the most attractive features of sports – that it is a great leveler. Rich or poor, urban or rural - if you have sporting talent, that’s what really counts.

In India, where gross inequalities are embedded into the societal framework, sports can offer a new ray of hope for poor children with little or no access to the benefits of an English education.
And of course, sports can create a new sense of self-worth. As the first match drew to an end, I watched a new team of boys from Akanksha get ready for the second match. As they kidded around, showing off their moves, I couldn't help thinking how happy they looked. Some of them didn't have the right shoes, or the right socks or ankle guards, but their smiles were bright and they were on top of the world.

The Akanksha motto "Aspire. Achieve. Be the Change."


Anonymous said...

Hockey? Um where's the ice? Oh you mean field hockey, never mind.

indian yarn said...

i used to watch the practice sessions in the hockey field in marine lines ( near the american library .well that was 14 years ago.)

Pramod said...

The "we are better than them" feeling is not the preserve of commercially organised sports. I've been part of some very seriously partisan crowds in school, college, hostel type sporting events. People love belonging to groups of one kind or other, and it's far easier to go crazy in a group than all alone by oneself. And that in turn is a function of how strong the ego is - represented by "me", "mine", "i want" etc.

Well, enough philosophy ! I'm going to go watch football :)

Ravi Ramakantan said...

>>To tell the truth, I am not a big fan of commercially organised sport....
But, that is a necessary evil Deepa. When we used to organise basketball tournaments through our club, we realised that, there was no way we could do this without money from sponsors.. esp. if you want "no entrance fee". This was our way for promoting the game of basketball... all the while cursing "cricket" for being the "ad money guzzler"
>>sports can create a new sense of self-worth.
I AGREE. Esp. when a child is not "academically good". Also, I feel that every child SHOULD be encouraged to cultivate an outdoor sport and an "indoor hobby" in these times of TV and computer gaming.

Shobna said...

Hi Deepa,
Sports makes life worth living. It provides grist for conversations, a temporary high that normal life doesn't, something to look forward to. Screaming on the sports pavillion has a soul-cleansing effect. (I guess that makes it spiritual) Sports is an entertainment form at par with films. So what if some people make money out of it? The only sports form that brings out the worst in humans are those involving animals, cockfights, bullfights and the like.


Deepa Krishnan said...

How can a boxing match bring out any good in anyone?

Anonymous said...

Lovely article!

Subraya Mallya said...

Hi Deepa
Fantastic stuff. I just happened to click through a Facebook link into your Mumbai Magic site onto this blog. Lot of interesting stuff.
BTW I think by now most of your readers must have identified with Pramod with all the references you have made in the articles - so time to introduce him into this blog too - especially for all the sports stuff

- Mallya

Mehrunissa said...

Hi Deepa,

I could not find an email address on ur blog...
I like ur blog cuz you write about everything under the sun. I have a blog on Mumbai too and would love to connect with you on the same.
I'v just started so i'm an amateur blogger but yes, it's nice to follow your blog cuz that way I can discover this city better. Good luck x

Roshan said...

Thanks for this information..!!