Sun Oct 23 08:17:29 SAST 2016

Bob Woolmer's death points to rampant corruption

By unknown | Mar 26, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

At its best, all sport is a display of the human being at his or her very best. At its purest and most magical, it is a test of how well we can use our natural attributes without the help of drugs or any other enhancements.

At its best, all sport is a display of the human being at his or her very best. At its purest and most magical, it is a test of how well we can use our natural attributes without the help of drugs or any other enhancements.

Think, for example, of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali. Imagine Ali in the ring, dancing around an opponent.

Then picture him as his left jab goes rat-tat-tat on an opponent's face.

With the great Ali, when he was ready to destroy someone, this would be the beginning of the end. A right hook, a few blows to the stomach and the next thing you know the opponent is out.

Many of us have vague memories of Ali's demolition jobs. Those older than me have memories of listening to the radio and being enthralled by this legend.

In the age of television, when we can relive these moments again, the power of Ali remains as immediate as it was all those decades ago.

Why was Ali so loved and envied? What made him so attractive to us all?

I believe it is because the whole world saw Ali as one of the best embodiments of sport there could be. Ali was an example of pure physical exertion and mastery.

Indeed, that is why sport retains such a fascination for us. After all, what is sport? Sport, when practised by the very best, is natural man or woman at the pinnacle, at the very best.

Think of the football legend Pele, and his mastery of the ball. Think of Patrick "Ace" Ntsoelengoe as a young man. Think of Jomo Sono at his very best.

Think today of the 1936 Olympics, when a young black man called Jesse Owens proved to Nazi Germany's Adolf Hitler that all humans are created equal.

Hitler wanted to prove that Aryans were the most physically accomplished people in the world and so had intended to ensure that white blonds won most of the events at the Olympics.

Owens went on to win four gold medals at those Olympics and shatter Hitler's misguided ideas about racial superiority.

That is sport for you - it is the human being, black or white, at his or her best.

Think about our own Ryk Neethling, the Olympic gold medal winner for swimming.

Think about some of our best footballers, such as Lucas Radebe.

We delight in all of them because we believe they do not take drugs, are not influenced by anyone or any bribes, and are giving us the best that training can deliver.

So what does one make of the apparent murder of Bob Woolmer, the Pakistani cricket coach whose side crashed out of the ICC World Cup unceremoniously a week ago? What are we to say about cricket in particular and sport in general?

I am not a cricket fan, yet there is sadness when a sporting code has such a tragedy visited upon it. This Cricket World Cup will now be remembered for the death of a coaching legend rather than for the fine displays of human ability on the field.

You will know by now what happened. Woolmer, a legendary cricket coach who was obsessed with the game and how to improve it, was found dead in his hotel room last weekend.

Initially no foul play was suspected, but it has now become clear to police investigators that the man was murdered.

A lot of stories are doing the rounds about why Woolmer was strangled in his room.

At first some speculated that Pakistani cricket fans, who are known for their fanatical support of the game and their national squad, might have got to him in anger. But this theory did not hold.

Now the spotlight is moving to the possibility that Woolmer was about to expose match-fixing, bribery and general thuggery in cricket.

We do not know the truth for now. What we do know is that the "game of gentlemen" is as dirty as many other sporting codes have turned out to be.

We now know that what was exposed with the Hansie Cronje match-fixing scandal years ago was just the tip of the iceberg.

What will emerge from the Woolmer murder is the fact that players throw games and that there are backhanders to officials.

The truth is that this is nothing new in most sports. We have now reached a stage where athletes take performance-enhancing drugs, where players are bribed to throw fights and games, where sport is not always as pure as we would like our sportsmen and women to be.

Take cycling. One of the biggest sporting scandals hit cycling a few months ago when the winner of the Tour de France was exposed for taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Here at home, we are meandering through a police investigation where referees are alleged to have taken bribes to swing games.

It is all over the place. Football, athletics, cycling, horse- racing, motor-sport and almost all else are regularly rocked by similar scandals.

The truth is that there is so much money swirling around in sport these days, that there are people who will do anything to win.

Athletes will go to the extent of taking drugs to have an edge.

Then there are the evil, greedy people who bet on these sporting codes. They will do anything so that the boxer or team they have bet on, wins. So they bribe players to throw games.

What we are seeing today is the end of sport as a noble pursuit.

Sport is sinking into the dirty quagmire of greed and selfishness.

The events at the Cricket World Cup this past week prove this conclusively.


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