Why sport and nationalistic jingoism are not the best of mates

TV anchors in the UK do not call for expulsion of Indian and Pakistani-origin citizens for not supporting England in cricket; wish our bellicose anchors could fathom why

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter

Soroor Ahmed

It is a spectacle, which, perhaps, many TV anchors in the sub-continent failed to watch or listen to, though BBC Hindi/Urdu radio did highlight it.

When England was playing Pakistan in the semi-final of Champions Trophy at Cardiff on June 14, a large number of Britons of Indian origin in the galleries were seen supporting the latter rather than the English team. Their logic was simple: they wanted to see another India-Pakistan thriller and this time the final. Their wish was fulfilled as Pakistan defeated England and India trounced Bangladesh a day later. The final took place on June 18. This time they naturally supported India and not Pakistan.

The Cardiff bonhomie for Pakistani team came just a week after both Indian and Pakistani-origin Britons overwhelmingly voted for the Labour Party. Twelve Indian and another 12 Pakistani origin MPs got elected.

This was a significant departure from the election pattern in the US last year when a big section of Indian-American votes got divided between Republicans and Democrats, while Pakistanis in general rooted for Hillary Clinton.

Politics apart, had the crowd backed India in any match against England, it would have been acceptable by many of us. It, of course, would not have gone down too well with the ultra-nationalists in Britain.

But, of all the countries, the crowd in Cardiff supported Pakistan against which the Indian hockey team played a match wearing black arm-bands in London on the same day, June 18.

The crowd behaviour in Cardiff certainly has a message for all those who measure nationalism with the yardstick of cricket. As per the logic put forward by the jingoists, Indian-origin Britons should not support India – with whom they have cultural and emotional bond – as they are citizens of England and should be loyal to it.

Whenever the Indian or Pakistani cricket team visits England, Britons of Indian and Pakistani origin seldom support English team even when there are players from the sub-continent.

Strangely, there are instances of players from sub-continent playing for English team being booed and jeered by this crowd.

There is no dearth of ultra-nationalist in England too who dislike this behaviour of the Britons of sub-continental origin. But never, in UK, have TV anchors and panelists discussed these issues during Prime Time programmes as their counterparts do here in the subcontinent. There certainly should be a distinction between the crowd and those sitting in television studios.

People in the West have paid a heavy price, especially in the first half of the 20th century, which witnessed two World Wars, in the name of rabid nationalism.

So, you find none of the anchors in Britain calling for the expulsion of millions of citizens of Pakistani and Indian origin because they do not support English team.

A few months back, an Indian-origin gentleman from Guyana –the land of cricketing giant Clive Lloyd–but who now teaches in New York, was in Bihar to trace the origin of his forefathers who were taken by the British as indentured labourers in the 19th century.

He was taken aback by a question about his cricketing loyalty: West Indies or India?

He ducked the bouncer by just saying that his heart lies in India, which he was visiting for the first time.

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