Last year I had the opportunity to be part of an international group of Managers in Sport, participating in a higher level of sports management course. It was one of those moments that I realized that the potential of sports is so high, that it opens doors. Doors which normally are closed based on religious, cultural and political reasons.
During a dinner I sat next to Tere from Costa Rica and Joel from Eritrea. It wasn’t until Joel showed me a military pass stating that he is a soldier, that I got involved in their conversation. I learned that five years after Eritrea got independent, and the war began against Ethiopia, every man in Eritrea was obliged to join the army. Joel told us he was one of the soldiers, but he didn’t answer Tere’s question whether he also killed people.
Tere spoke very negative about the war, and clearly stated to don’t understand why people still own weapons or even start wars. She described her peaceful situation back home and told us that her country doesn’t even have an army.
I expected that Joel would leave the conversation for what it was, but he surprised me by asking Tere with a smile the following question: “How would you feel if your neighbor country started a war, for the simple fact to get access to the harbor and the ocean?”
He explained us the motives behind the war, and got Tere really thinking. She said later that in principal she is against any war, but that she understands now why Joel has fought for his country. We continued talking about sports, and how Eritrea tries to use sport to give the youth some alternative opportunities for the future.
I later realized that if it wasn’t for sports, we wouldn’t have had that dinner and interacted about this topic. I felt fortunate to have been there and especially grateful to be working in sports. I have different reasons that I choose for sports, like helping athletes, and being on a daily basis involved in a healthy and positive environment.
But the secondary reasons were not so obvious when I made this choice. The humanitarian effects of sports, connecting cultures and social development are aspects that make it even more challenging and interesting.
Are you in sports? If so, please share your motives with all of us.