Sports

Must we mix sport and politics at the Football World Cup?

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The belief in the power of football to make positive contribution to progressive and sustainable change in the world was met with opposition before the start of the tournament in Doha, Qatar.

FIFA President, Gianni Infantino wrote to the chiefs of 32 competing teams, demanding them to focus their time at Qatar to focus only on football. There was nothing wrong with this.

But each of the competing Football Associations felt it was tantamount to giving them a lesson how to play the game. It was considered as fighting talk, an intrusion.

The teams instead opted to send a reminder that neither FIFA nor the hosts, Qatar should declare war on the national teams.

Last month, (November 2022) the findings of a new research study led by Dr. Adam Scharif of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, found that international sporting events tend to trigger unwarranted repression, when host nations that were autocracies, some even dictatorships, used the different games as a way of persecution of their political opponents.

Anti-discrimination rainbow coloured “# One Love” arm-bands worn by thecaptains of teams was banned, with severe penalties – Yellow and Red Cards. England and Welsh Captains at the last minute had to change their bands before their matches on 21 November 2022. This made a large proportion of their fans feel very uncomfortable.

Besides, a former England football manager, Harry Redknapp told a news agency on the controversy surrounding Qatar, hosting the World Cup. We know the host country has strict anti-LGBTQ+ laws. “How they got it in the first place I don’t really know. But they got it, it’s there, we’ve gotto get on with it now”.

David Seaman, former England Goalkeeper also shared his thoughts stating; “Football is for everyone and not everyone can go there to watch the games.”

Both of them were in full praise for England’s squad. “I think we’ve got a fantastic group of players,” said Harry, which was echoed by David.

The bravery of the England’s Three Lions team kicked off their World Cup game with a historic 6-2 win, but it was opponents Iran who won the praise for their courageous protests over human rights violations, by risking their safety at home, by refusing to sing the national anthem, but fans booed them or made thumbs down signs. Female supporters were also seen with placards, “Women, Life, Freedom,” they had smuggled into the Khalifa Stadium in Doha to protest at the crackdown on women refusing to wear the hijab.

FIFA according to some fans have acted to brush criticism of human rights under the carpet.

Can FIFA or anybody stop protests?

The more you stop wearing of rainbow arm bands, and the hijab, or placards, the more it is counterproductive according to someobservers.

Harry Kane, England’s captain had to wear a FIFA-approved “No Discrimination” armband.

But, it did not stop Manager, Gareth Southgate’s men “taking the knee” before kick off in a symbolic gesture against racism.

Wales in their drawn game (1-1) against United States, on 21 November 2022, were also among seven European teams hoping to wear the “OneLove” armband in a country which outlaws same sex relationships. Through their Federations stated they would have paid the fines but “could not allow their players in a situation where they may be booked or even forced to leave the field.”

In addition, we were told that sixteen of Iran’s 25 Football squad, play for foreign clubs and so it is more or less impractical to enforce rigid rules unless for security reasons.

Alcohol sales are banned at all World Cup stadiums in Qatar, but that did not stop fans “rocking up” at their hotels, with wild parties.

Who is behind all these “antics” is anybody’s guess? Do they “act their age” or “is it human nature to rebel?

Sri Lankan Cricketer Grills for Alleged Sexual Assault in Auz

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Sri Lanka batter Danushka Gunathilaka has been charged by police after an alleged sexual assault in Sydney’s east. He was arrested in the early hours of Sunday morning from the team hotel in Sydney’s central business district after a police investigation into reports that a 29-year-old woman had been sexually assaulted at a residence in Rose Bay earlier in the week.

“The woman met with the man after communicating with him for a number of days via an online dating application; it’s alleged he then sexually assaulted her on the evening of Wednesday 2 November 2022,” a New South Wales police statement said. “As part of ongoing investigations, a crime scene examination was undertaken by specialist police at an address in Rose Bay yesterday.

“Following further inquiries, a 31-year-old man was arrested at a hotel on Sussex Street, Sydney, shortly before 1am today (Sunday 6 November 2022).

“He was taken to Sydney City Police Station and charged with four counts of sexual intercourse without consent. The Sri Lankan national was refused bail to appear at Parramatta Bail Court via AVL today.”

Meanwhile, the local media in Sydney reported that “he was charged with four counts of sexual intercourse without consent and refused bail to appear at Waverley Local Court on Monday.

NSW Sex Crimes Squad commander Jayne Doherty said the woman took a lot of steps to ensure her safety, including communicating with the man for several days before meeting and going for a date in a public place.

“It was just unfortunate. It has nothing to do with meeting on a dating app or anything,” she said.

Detective superintendent Jayne Doherty, commander of the NSW police child abuse and sex crimes squad [ Photo © dailytelegraph.com.au]

SLC issued a statement on Sunday morning after the news had become public.

“Sri Lanka Cricket confirms that it was notified by the ICC that player Danushka Gunathilaka has been arrested on the allegations of sexual assault of a woman in Sydney, and Mr. Gunathilaka is due to appear in court tomorrow (7 November 2022),” the statement said. “SLC will closely monitor the proceedings in court and, in consultation with the ICC, will expeditiously initiate a thorough inquiry into the matter and take stern action against the player if found guilty.”

Gunathilaka was ruled out of the T20 World Cup during the first round with a hamstring injury. He was replaced in the squad but remained with the team in Australia. He has played eight Tests, 47 ODIs and 46 T20Is for Sri Lanka since making his international debut in November 2015.

Sri Lanka’s tournament ended on Sunday following a defeat in their final group match against England at the SCG.

Source: Cricket Info

Asia Cup Victory: Morale Booster for Sri Lanka

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The victory of Sri Lankan cricket team in the Asian Cup tournament is very significant for Sri Lanka for more than one reason.

 There is no “superstar” in the present Sri Lankan cricket team, unlike the so-called superstars in Indian and Pakistan cricket teams.  Nobody expected that Sri Lankan cricket team would beat India and Pakistan so convincingly and decisively.

While Sri Lankan cricket team do not have some world-ranking players now unlike the earlier days, the remarkable success of the Sri Lankan cricket team is due to the team effort and high level of confidence in their own capability. In the final match, even as   Sri Lanka lost five wickets for less than 60 runs, the remaining players did not lose heart and fought with determination while facing the experienced front line bowlers of Pakistan.

During the last several months, Sri Lankans have been undergoing tremendous stress due to economic hardships and political uncertainties. Massive agitations were organised by small section of Sri Lankans, while majority of Sri Lankans did not participate in the agitations and observed the scenario helplessly.

Many Sri Lankans felt that Sri Lanka could have become a laughing stock in the eyes of the world when agitators entered the President’s house and occupied it, with the President of Sri Lanka fleeing from the house and later on fleeing the country.  Even the Prime Minister’s house was attacked, with international media publishing such bad news extensively.  Certainly, many enlightened Sri Lankans felt that Sri Lanka deserve better.

Today, Sri Lanka has been driven to a situation where the debt commitment could not be honoured and countries like India have to rush essential goods and fuel to Sri Lanka to ensure that the Sri Lankans would atleast have the minimum requirements met.

Further, Sri Lanka is now heavily dependent on The International Monetary Fund to keep the Sri Lankan economy in shape. To add insult to injury, the Human Rights Commission is discussing the human rights violation in Sri Lanka during the ethnic war. Sri Lankans know that it was a war where the terrorists have to be necessarily eliminated and some bloodshed is unavoidable. Sri Lanka was really fighting to protect its territorial integrity and any government in any country would have behaved in the same way in such situation.

Such developments as above have brought down the morale of Sri Lankans considerably.

While Sri Lanka has several inherent strength and can bounce back to reveal its full potential, what is needed now is that the morale of the people should be kept high and they should gain the confidence that they can do whatever that is needed in the present juncture.

In the last few months, there have been no developments in Sri Lanka that could make Sri Lankans proud and Sri Lanka desperately need to hear some success stories.  This is what the Sri Lankan cricketers have given to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan cricketers have shown that with grit, determination and unity of purpose, they can achieve great aims, even when no one expects them to do so.

Let this morale-boosting victory be the starting point for revival Sri Lankan economy and public life, forgetting the unsavoury past in the last few months.

Sri Lanka wins Asia Cup, Beats Pakistan by 23 runs in Dubai

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Yes, it was another chasing side winning in Dubai, the venue now having seen 17 victories for chasing sides in the last 20 T20Is. But this time, Sri Lanka’s bowlers had arguably put the legwork in for the victory, before the second innings could even begin.

Pakistan’s innings could never quite achieve lift-off, and when the middle overs came, Wanindu Hasaranga put in his first big performance of the tournament, taking 3 for 21. After his strikes, Pakistan’s horizons contracted substantially, despite the best efforts of Mohammad Nawaz, who seemed to be striking well in the 26 he made off 18, before he was run out. Eventually, Pakistan succumbed to 121.

Sri Lanka were rattled by Pakistan’s pace in the powerplay, slipping to 29 for 3 at one stage. But so modest was the target, they could afford to take it slow. Pathum Nissanka anchored the chase, hitting an unbeaten 55 off 48. Thanks to less substantial but more aggressive innings from Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Dasun Shanaka, Sri Lanka ambled home with 18 balls and five wickets to spare.

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