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As one people as one nation : Significance of sports in multicultural Mauritius

Sports have a significant socio-economic, cultural and political impact on society, and it is up to all of us to keep the light burning. Mauritius is a multicultural society with a plurality of religions and communities. However, we need to have at least a couple of things that are purely Mauritian. Indeed, the Creole language connects us all and so does the Sega dance. But we should at least have one common conviction or something which can be worshiped like religion. Sports have the power to become like a first religion in Mauritius. The recent Indian Ocean Island Games (IOIG) have shown a certain power to bring all Mauritians together. 

Mauritius can benefit from sports. IOIG have given us the opportunity to think and analyze our strength. A multicultural society has its benefits while simultaneously celebrating differences. So we definitely need one thing that binds us tightly. Sports have that capacity. The national anthem sung after winning a gold medal gives the same goosebumps to everyone present at the stadium. Creole language binds us together but we need a few more things to keep this society intact. The policy makers should take this into consideration. 

The health aspect

The other aspect of taking sports even more seriously is the health issues faced by lots of Mauritians. A healthy society is the best society in many ways. This is the universal truth. Sports are directly connected to some very basic elements of a good society like health, education, upbringing, patriotism, socialisation, communication, among a host of others, although the cultural aspect can be argued. Today, when our youth are in the clutch of drugs and other unhealthy activities, sports can liberate them. 

That’s what I saw while attending a dozen events with my kids. For me, it was like a trip. I traveled in the minds of our athletes, put myself in the shoes of the audience cheering for them, trying to evaluate the thinking processes of our politicians, who were all smiles and enjoying themselves during these events. 

So, what did we get after hosting a 10-day sports event? Personally, I am not a sports fan. But I took some time off and went along with my kids to various events just for the sake of introducing them to this mega event occurring on our island. It was an eye-opening moment for me. So, here am I sharing how one event led to another and what I learned after attending a dozen sports events during IOIG, where Mauritius was the proud host country.

Multiculturalism in Sports

The other aspect to consider is the visible absence of many Mauritian communities in the sports. Why were they not participating? Why are they not interested in encouraging their kids to choose sports as a career? Check out the motives that can be a game changer for our society as a whole. 

Promote diversity in sports 

The important thing is to make sports as inclusive as possible. Are clubs doing enough to attract diverse talents? It is important to start as from a young age, such that the next generation is assured of including athletes from the different communities. We should work very closely with schools to set up PE programs as well as extracurricular sports activities, while motivating all kids to take part, whatever their religion, culture, orientation or abilities.

Sports in scriptures

The wider value of sports and exercise are known as from classical times. Our religious scriptures and their characters can be seen engaging in some kind of sports or exercise at some point, for instance, the archery skills by Arjuna or wrestling by Bheema in The Mahabharata or from what the Bible claims: “If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules.” Hadeeth of Islam instructs Muslims to raise their kids on sports like horse-riding, swimming and archery.

Why they came

I asked more than 100 individuals the reasons as to why they attended these sporting events during my visits. It was kind of a small survey. 90% of people answered that they came to support the Mauritian team. Other answers were like ‘to socialize with friends’ or to ‘see the stadium’.

I attended the first event to show my kids what was happening on our small island. But the reason was changed to supporting Mauritian athletes as soon as I saw the whole stadium rising to their feet when a Mauritian won in a judo match. Just like that, I realized how the importance of sports can be beneficial for our society. We suddenly became one. 

Sports providing ground for solidarity

Therefore, my philosophy is that sports would provide a common ground where integration can be cultivated. Sport participation can be used as a context for bringing together individuals with different ethno-cultural backgrounds in a multicultural environment that can promote integration.  
Sports activities should be made more popular in Mauritius. For instance, the weekly football matches in all villages, as they used to happen a couple of decades ago, should be revived once again. 

From a personal and ethical perspective, it has been argued that sport participation enhances morals and leads to positive character building experiences. Sports are also among the few social activities that are globally recognized as a vehicle for bringing people together. Let it also bring all Mauritians together. 

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