Sports used to be quite simple.
If you got muddy and sweaty either by playing football, rugby, or by running after your goats, you were said to be leading an active and healthy lifestyle.
But then one day our politicians realised that political mileage and support have a very strong correlation with victories and losses in sports.
And on that account, politicians around the world have been figuring out how to empower their political presence through sports.
There are plenty of examples of that in football.
We’ve seen football becoming an agent for international relations and an instrument of ‘soft power’ – by shaping the preferences of people through appeal and attraction.
We’ve seen football being used as a tool to pacify constituents and to repress political dissent. All these factors have, to a big extent, contributed to the emergence of sub-cultures within football and its stadiums used as a platform for political expression.
Now we’ve reached a point where it is simply impossible for us to separate politics from football. Which brings me to the question – what is the actual purpose of politics in football, or sports in general?
Make no mistake. Seeing your countryman or woman standing on the podium, waving the national flag, while the national anthem echoes in the stadium is a proud and fabulous feeling.
In fact, many political strategists maintain the confidence that the positive disposition derived from such occasions, if timed properly, has the capacity to romanticise the ruling politician or government.
However, there is a problem.
The joy of winning a gold medal is intoxicating. But strangely, the euphoria does not do anything to cure the gaping economic wound of the people or boost their financial wellness.
In fact, it’s still a long, long way from being even remotely useful or valuable.
And to make it worse, above and beyond the handsome amount of taxpayers’ money spent on financing something like the Podium Programme in Malaysia, the government decided that more money had to be spent to promote and advertise the campaign. Yet, a majority of people did not buy into it.
Now let’s move on to the actual purpose of politics in football.
There are a few people in this world who will talk about the need to have a role model in sports to encourage public participation. A handful of fanatics will insist the only reason they picked up football was because of heroes like Diego Maradona.
But for most of us, especially children, football is just a fun sporting activity. That’s it.
Legends like Maradona, Pele, Eusebio, Ferenc Puskas, Zinedine Zidane and Datuk Mokhtar Dahari all loved football. As children, they all had fun with football.
Barefooted, kicking rag balls on the streets or in the playground, they all grew to love the sport and became incredible and unstoppable.
They would all probably love it more if their respective governments invested taxpayers’ money into encouraging public participation through the development of more public parks, playgrounds and fields and not on elite academies, cramped with coaches, which then become too organised, regimented, all bibs and cones and two-touch football.
Where is the fun in that?
The only purpose of politics in football, and sports in general, is to facilitate existing motivations and abilities of the people by providing them free access to opportunities.
These opportunities can be created through the development of amenities like public football fields, or through tax benefits to encourage participation in sports.
I’d like to suggest to our youth and sports minister and the people at the municipal councils to place a condition that future architectural designs of our malls should include public fields or parks for people to gather and take part in what they love – sports.
This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.