Sport as an Alternative to War

The tragedy of what has recently happened to the Togo football team (caught up in Angolan separatist insurgency), highlights the clash of two opposites. – sport and war. What a contrast the gunmen are: poor, poxed and pathetic – compared to the magnificent athletes who were preparing to play on the field of dreams.

Although there are historical claims that “The battle of Waterloo was won in the playing fields of Eton”, in the present era there is a clear separation.

Today war is practised by the playground bully, the saddo thug life of those who seek their reputation in the pain of others, the demon who cannot control its primitive urge of revenge: the pyschopaths who are a  danger to the public, who achieved their apotheosis in european national socialism.

We have a United Nations assembly who can work out the protocols of military engagement, which ensure it is slow, methodical, infrequent and involves all the interested parties.  Then, when or if it occurs, war will be tragic, terrible and timed. The exit strategy worked out in greater detail than the sacrifice itself. We will all hang our necks in collective shame and immediately review the action, to understand how it can be avoided in the future.

By contrast – sport is a carnival, a fiesta, a celebration of grace, strength and brilliance. Athletes pit themselves against each other and people pay good money to see this contest of will, skill and might. The players may receive a bruise or an injury, but there is a referee to ensure fair play and a doctor to administer first aid. Usually the players can return to the sport within a day or two. Medals, trophies and memories can be treasured. Spectators can savour each moment as it unfolds in the panorama of emotion, heroism, struggle, anguish, fear and ecstasy before them. The spectacle can be filmed and recalled by all concerned – we can imitate our icons and aspire to strive like them. We can return to pay again for another show, or not, and it won’t matter.

On many levels sport trounces war: physically, visually, financially……….

Take the economics of war, sometimes used as an excuse for continuing the arms trade. War is destructive, it pulls down, wounds, depletes and kills. It is demolition on a grotesque scale. Making guns and bombs for sale is like manfacturing thalidomide – the only hope is that it’s never used. It is worse than selling people fake products. It will be criminalised. The reason why so many scientists leave their subjects behind, is because far too much of science is in the paw of war. We need those scientists, researching and working positively. There is space to explore, new planets to discover and meteorites to deflect.

Mutually assured destruction (MAD) summarises the philosophy of the political leaders who use that dicturm: namely that the world can only be controlled by threatening to destroy it. Do we really want these bullies as political leaders?

War is a bore. It is a dinosaur. It needs to be isolated, minimised and business must stop manufacturing weapons.

Sport, by contrast, gives us real heroes who inpire us. their efforts put on show in tournaments that millions of people pay to watch, enthralled (or not, but it doesn’t matter). The fairness of the contest is scutinised by officials and spectators. Everyone can take part in one sport or another – sales of equipment, footwear and clothing are vast and generate jobs, fitness and fun.

It is time for sport to replace war as an arbiter of the way we inter-act as individuals, groups, cities and nations.