Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lessons from World Cup 2006

July 5, 2006

The World cup is coming to an end. Many of us may be disappointed that our favorite teams failed to make to the finals. We became so accustomed to staying awake in the wee hours and now suddenly we realize we have to get back to routine as it used to be. Like any viral fever, the World Cup fever too will take a while to recover from.

Watching the World Cup, made be ponder on a number of realities of life as a Malaysian.

Each match starts with the players marching in holding the hands of children who are a symbol of innocence. Although the whole tournament may be far from being innocent due to politicization and commercialization but nevertheless FIFA still manages to portray its noble aim of promoting goodwill and unity among the masses throughout the world, in keeping with the vision of its founder, Jules Rimet a Christian, committed to “universal brotherhood”.

In fact the World Cup truly deserves to be called “The greatest show on earth” as it makes people forget their differences and come together to celebrate this festive month. This is evident in the huge crowds comprising all races that gather in our nasi kandar and other coffee shops at unearthly hours all over the country to watch the game.

Then the national anthems of the competing teams are played and close up views of the players seem to reveal the sense of pride in their faces in representing their respective nations.

Following this is the display of a huge banner that reads “Say no to racism”. It is an appropriate reminder to a world that is divided by race and religion which has plunged it into violence and war. If only our political leaders from all over the globe can get together every four years to “Say no to racism”, a major battle against that evil would be won.

I was particularly impressed with the degree of patriotism displayed by the players to their countries. Imagine Zinadene Zidane, at the age of 34, managed to pump all the adrenaline into his system, to rise up to the occasion to steer his team almost single-handedly into the semi-finals. Then there was David Beckham shedding tears of sorrow that he was kept out of the penalties by which England loss to Portugal. There was also Ronaldo who was so determined to become the greatest world cup scorer which he finally succeeded.

We witnessed Germany and Argentina toiling for more than 2 hours to outplay each other for the glory of their nation. We also witnessed the visible sorrow in the faces of the Brazilian players who were prematurely sent out of the tournament. In the clash between Germany and Italy, the spirit of perseverance of the Italians till the dying minutes brought them the desired result.

Every player, regardless of his color or creed displayed so much patriotism for his country. Most of these young men are rich and lead glamorous lives but their zeal in seeking glory for their nation surely must be lesson for us all.

Do we, Malaysians have that much patriotism for our country? If we had we would have joined the ranks of South Korea and Japan in the World Cup finals, as we were once superior to these nations.

From what I see we had all the national patriotism before but this is regrettably slowly slipping by. All we can do is to sadly stand idle and watch this patriotism to the nation being substituted by “over-patriotism” to ones own race, religion and material wealth. This regrettably has brought with it ethnic segregation and intolerance of diversity. It fact patriotism has now become fanatism.

It is even more frustrating such attitude has also crept into the Catholic Church. I was rather surprised that a number of our faithful supported Portugal in their clash with England because the former was more Catholic than the latter. How can we condemn the government for being discriminatory when we ourselves are guilty of it?

How can we inculcate patriotism in our people especially the young? John F. Kennedy told his countrymen, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but you can do for the country”. This was very pertinent in the sixties, as the country then provided the needs of ALL citizens, but today as the rakyat, we are prepared to “do what we can for our country” but in return unsure of “What the country can do for us”.

How can you be patriotic when you are marginalized and denied basic rights and you are just waiting for opportunities in an alien land? How can you be patriotic when all your contribution and sacrifices towards nation building are brushed aside and even erased from the nation’s history?

Dr.Chris Anthony

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