Sports and politics: mix cautiously
Getting away with fabrication in the internet age for political brownie points is tough, writes Towheed Feroze
WE DON’T have to look puzzled at the mention of the potency of politics, generously blended with sports. When history has the record of a football war breaking out between El Salvador and Honduras, in 1969, just prior to the qualification of the 1970 World Cup followed by the military dictatorship in Argentina using the World Cup in 1978 to gain some form of global legitimacy, presence of politics or the astute use of sports for political ends need not be surprising.
Come to think of it, Hitler also showcased the 1936 Olympics to assert to the world the supremacy of the so-called Aryan race. But Hitler had other motives too — to present to a Germany which did not wither away under the crippling sanctions and embargoes imposed by the allies after the First World War.
The Olympics in 1936 was Germany’s warning to the world. Sadly, the major powers decided to ignore it because they wanted to use Germany’s ascendancy to counter the threat of what they believed to be the corrosive impact of a credo called Communism.
But then, things went awry, didn’t they? Anyway, the purpose here is not to talk of major world sporting events that carried ulterior political motives but to refer to a very much local event where a once renowned footballer gave certain details in an interview which, according to statistics provided by an international sports results site, appear inaccurate. The famed former footballer in question is Chunnu, (Ashrafuddin Ahmed), who was among the top Bangladeshi players of the 1970s and early 1980s.
In an interview recalling the ghastly killing on the night of August 15, 1975, the former footballer goes back to the years right after the liberation, recalling the contribution of Sheikh Kamal to forming Abahani Club and encouraging the youth to take up sports as a career. All this is fine, Abahani is still one of the top clubs in the country and the founder deserves kudos unreservedly.
However, while narrating the feeling the moment news of the massacre of the family of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman reached the football players, who, at that time where in Malaysia to participate in the Merdeka Cup tournament, Chunnu goes on to say that after overcoming the first wave of shock and disbelief, the players decided to boycott the match of that day, against South Korea. He also adds that the decision to abandon the game was not approved by the tournament committee and, therefore, they (players) took the field after persuading the tournament authorities to leave the flag at half-mast.
A noble gesture indeed but when this writer went to the football results site wildstat.com to get an idea of how Bangladesh fared in the meet, he was met with a few jolts. To satisfy the sporting curiosity of those reading this piece, Bangladesh managed a draw against Thailand, going down in all the other matches, with heavy defeats against Burma and Hong Kong. It goes to show that, while football was the sport of choice in the 1970s, international results were still shrouded in ignominy.
Anyway, what appeared incongruous were not the results but the dates on which Bangladesh played the other teams. The score sheet shows that Bangladesh started their tournament campaign on July 30, 1975 with the match against Japan while their last game was the one in which they managed a 1-1 draw, against Thailand, on August 15, 1975. According to statistics, the South Korea match was on August 10. If the statistics are to be taken as fact then Bangladesh had finished the Merdeka tournament on August 15, a day before the carnage happened and, therefore, had no game on the 15th.
The former footballer goes on to say in his interview given to a widely circulated Bangla daily (August 5, 2013 edition of Bangladesh Protidin) that as some players had insisted on taking the field with the flag at half mast, they were separated by army personnel at the airport after returning to Bangladesh.
Obviously, if the data provided in the net is to be believed then some of Chunnu’s statements appear dissonant. Or are we to assume that the data providing site has made an error? Whatever the case, in this age of internet and social media, it’s always smart (politic) to check details first. Not pointing fingers at anyone — getting away with fabrication, even if that means presenting wrong data, is not easy. Wonder who is right and who is wrong in this case…
Please check the following to see results, dates of all Bangladesh national team matches in the 1975, Merdeka Cup in Malaysia.
comments powered by Disqus
In a country where basic checks and balances are being eroded, with the judiciary being increasingly politicised, a small section of the media and a few organisations like Odhikar provide one of the last means of accountability, writes Chowdhury... Full story
An amendment to the constitution should seek women’s de facto equality, requiring the government to develop educational and employment opportunities exclusive to women, as in South Africa. Full story