The 90th minute. 100,000 fans inside one of the biggest stadiums in the world, and billions worldwide, cheering on their heroes in the final of a major tournament. On the pitch are players from countries all over the world. Some are just stepping into the limelight on the global stage, while others, in the twilight of their short but illustrious careers, are preparing to pass the baton on to the next wave of global superstars. All of them have come here the hard way, through years of hard work, training and dedication. Fans have travelled thousands of kilometres from around the globe to witness this great sporting spectacle. As the world watches on in awe, the ball thunders into the back of the net, leaving one side heartbroken, and the other, ecstatic. This is why we love sports.
Having been a sports fanatic from a very young age, it’s easy to identify just why competitive sport has such a global appeal. The thrills and spills of competitive sport enchant billions of people all over the world. The adrenaline rush caused by witnessing your favourite team win an important game, that feeling when you get the autograph of your favourite superstar, and the joy of watching a game amidst thousands of raucous supporters spurring their team on to victory cannot be adequately expressed in words. We look to sports like football, basketball, cricket and so on to seek a break from our daily lives and enter a completely different, alien world, one in which dreams come true and miracles are no longer uncommon, but almost inevitable. The world of sport.
The players are the human elements of this game, making the impossible seem possible. Score the winning goal, make the winning basket, and you are a hero. Miss, and you can go from hero to zero within seconds. These players embody the spirit and the passion of the game, while also depicting its cruel, unpredictable nature. Not all players have had it easy. Some wait years and years to get their chance to make it to the big time, while others are thrust into the spotlight very soon, sometimes almost too soon. Some of them had to face extreme hardships and difficult, poverty-stricken childhoods, while others had to fight against bad luck and lack of facilities. But those who do not give up become legends.
Take the case of Pele, the great Brazilian footballer who had to work as a servant to earn money to play football, or LeBron James, who was homeless at one point. Fans look up to and support them, because these players rose to do what many of them could never manage to do. We celebrate our team winning the championship as if it was our own victory, as it brings us the satisfaction of achieving something so astounding it seems unreal. Fans identify themselves with teams and players, and this deep, everlasting connection is at the heart of the popularity of sport.
Perhaps no other quote captures the essence of sport as strikingly and aptly as this one from Heywood Broun –
Sports do not build character. They reveal it.
Sport has the power to change lives, make dreams come true, and unite nations. In the eyes of the fans, sport is a means of forgetting your troubles and wandering far far away into a realm of endless possibilities and exciting experiences.
The official slogan of Barcelona, one of the biggest football clubs in the world, is “Mes Que Un Club”. More Than A Club. That just about says it all.