The Place of Sports in National Development

To gain a clearer perspective of how sports can stimulate growth and national development, it is quite logical and imperative that we examine first, the benefits it holds for individuals who make up social communities.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the father of modern Olympics, in his book L’education en Angleterre opined that “… organised sport can create character and social strength. Not only did organised games help set the mind and body in equilibrium, they also prevent time being wasted in other ways…”.

Coubertin unapologetically regards sports as essential to education and human development because sports played a vital role in shaping his character and building his mental acuity. From a young age, Pierre was known to have engaged passionately in horse-riding and boxing.

Empirical research has over the years reinforced Coubertin’s assertion that sport can hone intellectual and psychological abilities like analytical thinking, concentration, self-confidence, persistence and perseverance. Sport has also been identified as a pragmatic therapeutic measure for managing certain neurotic disorders like anxiety, depression, chronic insomnia and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Moreover, the social skills such as – unity, empathy, mutual understanding and dispute resolution, imbibed from playing sports can set individuals apart for success in other diverse areas of their endeavour especially in the workplace where there is an increasing demand for employees that are “emotionally intelligent”. Physically, sports can also help individuals ward off illnesses and keep diseases at bay and it is axiomatic that the healthier citizens are, mentally, physically and psychologically, the more empowered they are to contribute to national development.

‘’O Sport, you are Peace! You promote

happy relations between peoples,

bringing them together in their shared

devotion to a strength which is controlled,

organized and self-disciplined.

From you, the young worldwide

learn self-respect, and thus the

diversity of national qualities

becomes the source of a generous

and friendly rivalry’’

Culled from Ode to Sport by Baron Coubertin

Apart from music, no other medium is as powerful as sports in bringing people together; the global buzz, pomp and pageantry accompanying the ongoing Russia 2018 World Cup reiterates the fact that sport is one of the greatest unifying forces across the globe. It has become a rallying point for individuals, corporate organisations and nations across all continents of the world.

The camaraderie and positive energy that sport evokes can be harnessed to foster global development and sustainable peace. In 2016 for instance, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Galatasaray Football Club of Turkey entered an agreement tilted towards using football to spread awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals and raise funds to “kick” out poverty and inequality from our world. Four football players representing different national biases; Aurélien Chedjou of Cameroon, Fernando Muslera of Uruguay, and Wesley Sneijder of Netherlands, Selçuk Inan of Turkey, in the promo video commemorating the signing used their different languages to call for collective action to “leave no one behind” in the drive for sustainable development.

The strong appeal for sport is also being exploited in post-war Sierra Leone to probe the underlying cause of the war, identify the nuanced forms of violence and facilitate the healing process of ex-youth combatants suffering from varying degrees of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to ease their reintegration into society.

Politically, sport has been used to convey civil grievances. Nations and groups in history have boycotted the Olympic Games to protest issues like racial discrimination, gender imbalance, territorial invasion and authoritarianism.

From the foregoing, it is evident that sport presents a rare opportunity to rebuild our fragmented world, mend the frail relationships within and across countries. As sportsmen, spectators or die-hard enthusiasts, we must leverage the unifying power of sports to promote diversity, challenge primordial biases. Nations of the world on their own part must make deliberate efforts to integrate sport into their national development plans in the drive to build a sustainable world by the year 2030.



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