India vs Pakistan match in Champions Trophy 2017 will give Islamabad a window to project normality

On 4 June, Indian will play Pakistan in the Champions Trophy kickoff.

That is a major acknowledgement of the existence of our neighbour and will close all the sordid chapters of the recent past as canned sportsman spirit is poured onto global TV and it is all friends and handshakes, as if nothing has happened and we are all one happy family.

Just like you, I am all for sports being kept out of politics and maintained at a level above the grit and the grime. But we all know that is a lot of claptrap in this time and age and sports per se fell from that pedestal a long time ago. Today, it is integral to political equations.

It is naive to think that sports is not related to politics. AFP

It is naive to think that sports is not related to politics. AFP

There is politics in every sphere of sports. There's the politics of public funding of stadiums, of nationalism and militarism at the parks, of ticket sales and revenue teams, of parochial pride and official ambition, of payments and payoffs and corruption. There is nothing romantic about sports.

Whether we win or lose is immaterial to this argument. I am afraid that if we win (despite the shortage of time given by the BCCI to the team to bond against a hostile background with the ICC), it is very possible that it will not be the best thing for India-Pakistan ties. If we lose, it will be another needless step backwards. And that is equally possible, seeing how most players of the team are dead tired from the IPL circus and the enormous travel and fatigue of checking in and checking out over 45 days and have no time to recuperate. It isn’t easy to fly around the country in a heat wave and then fly off to a colder clime.

In ancient Greece, when Sparta and Athens played sport they had a code: Ekecheiria...truce, there will be no battle or conflict when the games are on.

Iran refused to play against Israel in the Olympics.

In Mexico, in 1968, Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman brought black power onto the podium and made a silent statement that reverberated around the world.

Our country refused to play South Africa because it practised apartheid.

The BCCI last week almost refused to send a team for this trophy for no greater reason than its rage over getting a thinner slice of the financial pie. If the Supreme Court hadn’t ordered it, we weren’t going.

Is that a grander reason than honouring our dead and the ongoing ignition of violence in Kashmir?

Wait and see, either way, we are giving them an opportunity for exercising normality and they will use it to advantage.

What great loss would there be if we stayed away on 4 June and let them have two points? It would be a strategic move, one that would indicate we mean business and that sports is not some special exception to our defence of the realm.

It is just a game but truth be told, it becomes something more.

From the texture of the advertising to the hoopla and the text in the hype and the post-match analyses and the whoops of triumph to overzealous fans.

Let them say we are sulking or being unsporting or even afraid, who cares?

Just be clear. We are not afraid to play. We just do not want to play because we do not recognise you...there is a difference.

If we had the courage to do that on 4 June, we would make a statement of intent and avoid walking into a trap.


Published Date: May 13, 2017 12:53 pm | Updated Date: May 29, 2017 02:46 pm