Sabalenka, Indonesia and some more politics


TENNIS player Aryna Sabalenka said that she had to endure hate from her co-players inside the locker room during tennis events.

This stems from Belarus’s support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that has brought worldwide indignation and criticism.

Indonesia, on the other hand, was also stripped of its hosting right for FIFA Under-20 after a government official called for the banning of Israel from the tournament.

This populous country in Southeast Asia supports the plight of Palestinians as they continue to endure the illegal occupation of Israel of their land.

“Do not link sports issues with political affairs,” pleaded Indonesian president Joko Widodo after he accepted the ban from FIFA.

It is so easy to say that and yet for as long as organized and modern sports have been played, politics plays a huge part in it.

When former president Corazon Aquino passed away, there was a call to wear yellow during the immediate University Athletic Association of the Philippines basketball game. As much as I supported Mrs. Aquino (I heavily campaigned for her), I opted not to wear yellow.

And there was one recently where it was suggested by some schools to wear black to protest a government policy. While I too was against that policy, I, once more, chose not to wear the suggested color.

I used to be vociferously against political statements in sports as I believe that it should stick to what it is—an athletic competition. Because if people are going to make use of an event to push their agenda, then it will be done all the time, and not just in sports, but everywhere else.

Yet, as a colleague of mine says, you cannot not like or get into politics because it shapes and affects our lives.

And I am going to call out FIFA for this.

You suspend Russia from international football, but not Israel for their illegal occupation of Palestine. While I do support Israel’s right to exist and am strongly against anti-Semitism, I vehemently disapprove of their brutal occupation and suppression of Palestinian rights.

It’s funny how the United States led a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics stemming from Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan. That led to the Eastern bloc boycotting the following 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

If people are serious about not allowing political statements in sports, then they should prohibit governments from pushing their agendas as well.

All you have to do is to look at the local leadership of various Philippine sports federations or even governing bodies and there are a bunch of politicians. You have to wonder whose money they put into their sponsorship of sporting events. It is sickening to be honest.

You see some of them become team managers or obvious boosters and while they are probably fans themselves, I cannot help but wonder if they also understand the need to be on camera or television.

The line has been crossed a multitude of times that there is so much gray area now with a lot of hypocrisy.

I do have to say that because of politics, we have seen some really charges matches and rivalries—the US and the old USSR and now Russia, Iran and Iraq, England and Argentina, England versus Scotland, Iran versus Saudi Arabia, Argentina versus Brazil, Germany versus the Netherlands, Algeria versus Egypt, El Salvador versus Honduras, and Croatia versus Serbia. That’s just some of it.

On a club level, there’s Real Madrid representing nationalist Spain and Barcelona representing the Catalan region that hopes to breakaway as a separate country.

And there’s the Old Firm Rivalry between two Glaswegian clubs—Celtic and Rangers that cuts across political, social, and religious lines that has contributed to sectarianism in Scotland.

So on one hand, politics in sports is both annoying, disrupting and even hurtful, but at the same time, it makes the competition more charged, interesting and well, riveting.

I’d love for the International Olympic Committee to hammer out with all its members a concrete rule about politics in sports. Yet, somehow, I find that impossible as they are given sponsorship to run their affairs. Sad isn’t it?

Hey, it does make for great discussion and social media banter right?

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