CRICKET AND PATRIOTISM
Posted on September 1st, 2009

Hameed Abdul Karim

This was in response to an editorial in the Sri Lankan Daily Mirror

Your DM editorial ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Cricket, Nation and ReligionƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ of August 11, 2009 insinuates certain sections of Muslims as being unpatriotic because of their support for Pakistan .ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  You even go to the extent of blaming the Islamic faith for this aberration. Let me remind you that the PakistaniƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s turned up in their numbers to support Sri Lanka in the World Cup final in Lahore where Sri Lanka beat Australia . If faith was a motivating factor, then the PakistaniƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s should have supported Australia because of the kinship between Islam and Christianity. Australians wouldnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t have been far off the mark if they accused Pakistanis of regionalism when they supported Sri Lanka . ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ And have you heard the hooting that takes place when Pakistani appeals for a LBW or a caught behind is turned down? We do not miss a single opportunity to hoot! This is an ugly habit. I was terribly embarrassed when a Pakistani jokingly asked me whether the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”hooƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ was our national anthem!

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Years ago the same issue had cropped up in an English daily (not the Daily Mirror) and I had pointed out the rabid racism that Uvaisul Karnain had to bear on his way back to the pavilion. The Pakistani cricketers too were at the receiving end of racial abuse then. They were called P_K_Y. Up until today no media in Sri Lanka has pointed out this flaw in our character. But I am happy to say there is a notice board today at the SSC warning spectators against shouting racial abuse at players. They run the risk of being thrown out and never allowed entry at any more matches at the SSC. Now thatƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s a step in the right direction.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Talking of alienation and discrimination, all one has to do is point to the nasty and racist remarks Champika Ranawaka of the Ultra Nationalist JHU made when he said Muslims are visitors and they can go to Saudi Arabia and the Tamils to India. There was no censure from any section of the media. Neither was there any word of condemnation when the then army commander said that Sri Lanka was a Sinhala Buddhist country and minorities should not ask for too much.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Besides tell me, whom does the large Sri Lanka community in Australia , England and New Zealand support when Sri Lanka plays against these countries? We see huge crowds of Sri Lankans waving the Lion flag and they are quite vociferous in their support for the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”motherlandƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. The media in those countries have not bothered to make an issue of this ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”aberrationƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ on the part of naturlaised Australian, British or New Zealand ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Sri LankansƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ And it is a trivial issue here as well, but for the media which for some reason wishes to make a national crisis out of a non-issue. I was watching the last one-day match at Premadasa Stadium in the company of Sri Lankan Muslims who have settled down in Saudi Arabia . All of them were supporting Sri Lanka and the children had even spent quite a sum of money buying Lion flags and Sri Lankan Cricket T-Shirts. Sadly the cameras were not focused on them but on those few Muslims who were supporting Pakistan . But then even if that was done the audience would have thought they were non-Muslim Sri Lankans! We did not resemble the caricature of a scrawny Muslim with a ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”toothbrushƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ beard that you carried to augment your arguments. This cartoon was not in the best of media traditions. But I am glad you didnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t put a ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”thambiƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ cap on his head to drive home the point. Thank you for that.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ LetƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s make one thing clear. Mahroof or Murlitharan were not in the side because of their ethnicities. Murlitharan is there because he wins matches for Sri Lanka with his bowling. And thatƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s the way it ought to be. The best player should be given a place in the side on his merit not because of his ethnicity. While we are on that subject I wish to point out the name changes that Tuan MohamedƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Dilshan and Suraj Mohamed did. Of course that was their prerogative, but I wonder if they thought their chances of getting into the side would be bettered if they took on Sinhala names?

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Patriotism is not a factor that you should have brought into your argument. Cricket is a sport not a war. Though I am sure there are people in this world who think of war as another sport. Patriotism cannot be shoved down anybodyƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s throat and somebody had rightly described patriotism of being the last refuge of the scoundrel. Are we to say my country is right when it is wrong? Are all those numerous Americans who oppose America ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s many wars of colonialism traitors to their nations? Or are they good human beings? ThatƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s my point. Let us all be good human beings. Hopefully things might then fall into place.

One Response to “CRICKET AND PATRIOTISM”

  1. cassandra Says:

    Whilst we are rational beings, the fact is we do not always act rationally. Many of our actions are based not on logic and reason but simply on sentiment and our cultural conditioning. So, I am not surprised if some Sri Lankan Muslims did in fact support Pakistan and not Sri Lanka during the recent cricket matches between the two countries

    I do not agree that “if faith was a motivating factor, then the Pakistanis should have supported Australia because of the kinship between Islam and Christianity”, at the World Cup Final in 1996. Firstly, there is a huge difference between belonging to the same faith and belonging to different faiths that share a “kinship”. Secondly, let us not overstate how much that ‘kinship’ actually counts for. The reality is that the bonds of regionalism (to use Mr Karim’s word) are a lot stronger than what this ‘kinship’ inspires – so, the support of the Pakistani crowds fell almost naturally for the Sri Lankans rather than the Australians.

    But I do agree with Mr Karim when he says that “Australians wouldn’t have been far off the mark if they accused Pakistanis of regionalism when they supported Sri Lanka” at the World Cup Final in 1996. So also could other Australians rightly complain that the many Sri Lankan born Australians who publicly support the SL team when it plays in Australia, are being ‘disloyal’ to the country of their adoption.

    I am also inclined to agree with Mr Karim that all this is no real big deal and we ought not to get all het up about something that does not, in fact, matter a great deal.

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