Playing politics

Though everyone, including politicians, would ideally agree that sports should be insulated from politics, in practice it becomes, not too uncommonly, a victim of political vicissitudes and caprices.

The mass appeal of sports makes it a favourite target for political posturing, and it is unfortunate that this year’s IPL matches have also been hit by such a posturing. The IPL governing council has decided to keep Sri Lankan players out of the matches to be held in Chennai after Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha declared that matches would be allowed in the city only if Sri Lankan players and officials were kept out. Jayalalitha’s threat was entirely political and she abdicated her responsibility to ensure the safe conduct of a legal sports activity in the state. Rather than using the ‘sentiments’ in the state as an excuse, she should have offered protection for the matches.

But it is not the first time Jayalalitha has used the Sri Lankan issue for political ends. She had earlier refused to host the Asian athletics meet in the state because Sri Lankan athletes were to participate in it. There is a competitive chauvinistic game indulged in by parties in Tamil Nadu to extract political mileage from the Sri Lankan issue. If the DMK withdrew support to the UPA government the AIDMK would beat it with the IPL issue.

The IPL organisers have done a great disservice to the game, the players and the spectators by succumbing to the threat and dropping the Sri Lankan players for the Chennai matches. They should have rescheduled the matches leaving Chennai out of the itinerary. That would have involved some logistical problems but they were not insurmountable. Instead they allowed financial considerations and the desire to kowtow to political caprices to rule over principles and a commitment to the game. 

This has happened before also when Pakistani players were manipulated out of the IPL. There is no need to blame only the Shiv Sena for mixing politics with sports. Sports is an activity which should unite people rather than be a means to divide them and to create bitterness. The politics being practised in the country unfortunately thrives on divisive passions. The Sri Lankan players have now been made to feel different from others and have even been belittled. That amounts to ill-treatment and discrimination which should not have a place in sports. It does not also help to promote the cause of Sri Lankan Tamils.

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