After a historic comeback from Liverpool FC earlier this week, I was mesmerised by the sight of tens of thousands of fans in the stadium, all standing and singing as one to celebrate with their team.
If this game could unite so many people from a wide range of different backgrounds within the U.K., is sport also able to bring together people across international borders? In our blog this week, Mission Translate explores how sport has been a useful tool in bridging the gap between communities from diverse backgrounds.
The diversity across different cultures throughout the world means that sometimes it can be a struggle to connect with people from other parts of the globe. This is not simply a language barrier; it is a cultural one. The variation in way in which we lead our lives and therefore experience and interpret the world has led to a disconnect and, in some unfortunate circumstances, conflict. Put simply, we just can’t understand each other.
Curiously, there is an area where people from any part of the world are able to unite with a common ethos – Sport.
Football is an obvious example of where this unification occurs. Every four years, the FIFA World Cup brings together 32 countries from across the world to play a sport that everyone understands. This is a sport where players, no matter what language they speak, play by the same shared rules and fans, from diverse cultures, share a passion and understand the elation and heartbreak the game brings.
Football is also a sport that, allegedly, brought together nations at war on Christmas Day 1914, when soldiers in the trenches declared a truce, shock hands and enjoyed a game of football.
At the end of last month, over 42,000 runners gathered in London to run the London Marathon. This race was first held in 1981 and interestingly one of the six goals set out by co-founders, John Disley and the late Chris Brasher, was ‘to show mankind that, on occasions, can be united.’ I’m sure at the time, they did not expect it to bring together over 200 nations, via television broadcasts across the world!
World Championships and Olympics
There are world championships across many other sports too, which attract participation from many diverse nations and are broadcast to spectators internationally. Athletes and spectators have all experienced a shared journey in their love of the sport. It allows them to connect with others through a common passion, drive and commitment that overrules any differences in language.
And then, there is arguably the largest multicultural gathering in the world: The Olympics. A series of sports events that bring together over 10,000 athletes, 13,000 staff and volunteers, who all share one Olympic village for a period of around two weeks to participate in the competition. The diversity of cultures, languages and religions can pose a challenge, but there is a shared ethos that exists and allows for all to run smoothly and peacefully, thanks to the connection of sport.
It is not just on a big-scale, international competition level where this unity is experienced. On a local level too, it has been recognised that sport can connect communities, where otherwise divisions may exist. An organisation called Peace Players works with young people in 22 countries, successfully uniting, educating and inspiring them to create a more peaceful world via sport. Their slogan ‘Play together. Live together’ highlights just how important a role sport can play in bridging the cultural difference.
Sport is built upon a number of shared values. Teamwork, cooperation, fairness, respect and transparency being a few of them. The time whilst athletes engage in sport is one where everyone unite with the same ethos and can play together with no fear of difference. If more people could follow the example of Peace Players and take this shared language off the pitch or away from the track and use it in the real world every day, then it would surely be a powerful thing.
What sport do you play? Do you have any experience of how it helps you unite with others? If so, Mission Translate would love to hear your story. Drop us a message in the comments below.