Adam Gilchrist, the renowned Australian wicketkeeper-batsman, was declared not out by the umpire Rudi Koertzen after he had edged the ball to the wicketkeeper in the 2003 World Cup semi-final against Sri Lanka. The skillful batsman was batting on a score of 22 from just 20 balls and was only getting into his stride. However, knowing that he had hit the ball, Adam Gilchrist surprisingly walked off the field in what was a tremendous act of sportsmanship and respect for the sport and the opposition.

Similarly, in a football game against Arsenal in 1997, Robbie Fowler showed great honesty and compassion. It was moments before the final whistle, and Fowler dribbled into the penalty box with David Seaman at his heels. In an attempt to round the keeper, Fowler fell to his feet. He was awarded a penalty for the referee saw an infringement. But, Robbie made his way to the referee and convinced him that it was in fact him who had lost his footing and asked the referee to call the penalty back.

Such acts of compassion and sportsmanship made these sportsmen truly great. However, in today’s modern era, rarely do we see such incidents of sportsman spirit out there on the sports fields. Instead, cheating and disrespect for the opposition are becoming increasingly common in today’s players. I believe that the main factor which has led to this lack of sportsman spirit is money. Back in the day, players and athletes used to play out of their love and passion for the sport. However, cricketers, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds who make the bulk of cricketers in countries such as India and Pakistan start playing because of the attraction of money and fame. In all their rush to upgrade their status, they forget what sport is all about teamwork, sportsmanship and a sense of responsibility. The passion that an athlete shows in representing his team/country on and off the field is what truly define the dignity and pride of the sport. Players playing half-heartedly and teams being subjected to politics is how sports are today.

Since the introduction of leagues such as the Indian Premier League and our very own, Pakistan Super League, youngsters dream to play these leagues instead of representing their country. The IPL controversies, ranging from Srinivasan to the parties, exactly show the harm that money has brought to the sport. Focusing more on hairstyles rather than performances has become a norm amongst today’s young athletes. Appearing in advertisements and commercials to earn big money and gain publicity is more important to them.

The spot fixing scandal of 2010 involving Pakistan is perhaps the biggest proof of how money has tainted sport. They forgot the principles of the sport and responsibility of representing their nation in lure of money and the attraction of their personal material gains. Today’s athletes are not setting a good example for the younger generation.

The increasing dominance of money has also surfaced in others sports’, such as football. And the 2006 Serie A incident is a prime example. The league champions Juventus, and other major teams such as AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio were involved, and they were accused of spot fixing and bribery upon the interception of a series phone calls between the team managers and referee organizations. These calls implicated that, the teams were rigging games with the help of favorable referees by paying bulks of money. As a result of this scandal, various individuals were banned for life. Juventus were stripped of their title, and various teams were relegated.

While undoubtedly, money has increased the number of youngsters playing sports at a professional level, I believe money has done much more harm than good. Match officials and managers have gone astray, and rather than regulating the behavior of the youth and becoming role models, they themselves have started indulging in morally questionable practices. The increasing dominion of money has corrupted the essence of sports, and young players now play on the premise of earning money and not passion like in the olden days.

 

The writer is a student of O Levels at Aitchison College, Lahore.