Should politics and sports be kept separate? If you are talking about India-Pakistan cricket, then I can hear almost a thousand vociferous supporters for the claim. But if you move the focus to the African continent, it has never happened so. As BBC reports, “British ministers Jack Straw and Tessa Jowell have written jointly to the International Cricket Council asking for Zimbabwe to be banned [from international cricket]”.
Of course, Robert Mugabe’s atrocities do not help matters for Zimbabwean cricket and the country is often in the news for the wrong reasons. Mugabe is dishing out reverse racism by forcing white land owners from their lands and giving them to the majority blacks. He also has openly discriminated against homosexualityby deeming it ‘unnatural sex acts’ and threatens to punish ‘offenders’ with a 10-yr jail sentence.
But should the President’s acts affect the sports in a country? Ideally it shouldn’t but we do not live in an ideal world and often politics has seeped into the totally different arena of sports. When nationalistic fervor is linked to victories on the playing field, it is natural for us to link the two together. I was one of the few who opposed playing Pakistan on the cricket field; especially when we were at (proxy) war with them and our soldiers continued to die on our own
soil by terrorists funded by our neighbors. After all, their cricket team is representative of their nation. Any welcome accorded to them is unknowingly a disregards to the heinous activities on the border.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we dig up pitches or scare their players with death threats. But we simply refuse to play them unless it is absolutely necessary (World Cup). The U.S. doesn’t associate with Cuba whatsoever and South Africa was banned for a long time due to its apartheid politics. But bowing down to commercial pressures, India-Pakistan series did happen (an exciting one at that) but Pakistan ultimately managed to browbeat us without seceding to any of our demands that included handing over those responsible for Mumbai bomb blast and desisting from supporting terrorists camps on their soil.
So, Jack Straw and Teresa Jowell are somewhat correct in demanding a ban on Zimbabwe playing cricket elsewhere. It has been done before and it can be done again. Like it or not, we cannot alienate even sports from politics; it is all pervasive.