by Renwick Rose
Over the two- month period mid-October to mid-December, the finals of two global sports taking place in Australia and Qatar in the Middle East will dominate the sporting environment, with billions expected to view either live or via television.
Though there are almost 200 nations on earth, only two, Australia, the host country of the T/20 Cricket World Cup, and England, ironically the country from which cricket originated, will be represented at both finals which will draw competitors from all parts of the globe.
England won the T/20 World Cup of cricket on Sunday.
For all its ancient origins, cricket is today a sporting dwarf compared with football, a veritable global behemoth with tens of millions of players, billions of spectators either live or by television and generating trillions of dollars. A greater contrast cannot be imagined.
Though cricket would have spread geographically through the colonial spread of the British Empire, its very elite nature in earlier times, largely restricted to the so-called “upper classes” in Britain’s colonies, proved to be a barrier to it being embraced globally. Wrapped in its colonial cloak, it continued to hide under the illusion of being a “gentleman’s game” even though the happenings on and off the field belied this.
Like the system of colonialism itself, it continued to be mired in discrimination and racism. Today, after almost 300 years of existence, Commissions of Inquiry are still unearthing racist practices in England and Scotland while discriminatory practices in one form or another persist in many other countries.
For more than a hundred years, the original powerhouses in cricket, England and Australia, ruled the roost and have only been upstaged because the popularization of the sport in the Asian sub-continent brought into play hundreds of millions of people. This development, coupled with the spread of television, generated huge coffers for the cricket boards and the moguls of the sport.
The fortunes of global football took a different turn. Though having the advantage of not requiring a huge outlay in order to participate, its global organization took some time to develop. Even when the early World Cups were organized, such was the weak organization at a global level that the very first official World Cup, held in Uruguay in 1930, was held by invitation, not by mass global qualification as today.
The end of the second World War brought about a seismic shift in global relations at all levels. The old colonial powers, Britain and France principally, were forced to give up their colonial possessions and in the newly independent states, sport was no longer the domain of a privileged few. Hundreds of millions began participating, not only as players, but also by demonstrating an interest in the administration of sport. The post-war era was to usher in new relations at all levels.
Football has become the dominant sport in the world, the veritable “Game of the People” and its 2022 World Cup, opening in Qatar next week, will emphatically validate that fact. (To be continued)