The power to change the world

NELSON Mandela said in the inauguration of the Laureus World Sports Awards back in 2000: “Sports has the power to change the world.”

This year, I got the opportunity to be invited to the 20th year anniversary celebration in Berlin. Upon receiving the invitation, I was beyond excited but it also made me reflect by opening up my perspective of the true value of sports.

I believe what he says is true, sports does have the power to change the world because sports develop something in people’s heart that’s called passion.

It’s an energy that grows within us, that makes us joyful; either when our team makes a goal, the tears we feel when our anthem sounds, and makes us feel proud to belong to one community, one country, through sports.

Yet, I’ve come to the conclusion that passion for sports can be a double-edged sword. It can come with great happiness but also bring out the worst in us.

For instance, I believe sports breaks down the barrier of race. It’s no secret to anyone that I’m half Indian and half Chinese.

Throughout all my career, I was lucky enough to bring pride to our country. Every victory I had since I was 14 years old, was a reason for Malaysia to feel proud.

In that sense, it didn’t matter where I came from, who my parents are, what they did, nothing really mattered except the fact that I was giving a sense of patriotism for my country. Yet, I think, would I have had the same inclusive recognition if I hadn’t won anything?

I have heard so many times, when our athletes don’t achieve success, the barrier of race comes up again and we divide.

I also believe sports breaks down the barrier of gender. Through sports, I learnt that there was no difference between boys and girls. When I was growing up and I was improving my game, I was constantly encouraged to train with boys. There was no difference between us.

We learnt since very young to work together and to encourage each other along the way. Yet, once again, I wonder if I would have reached the appropriate level had I not been encouraged to train with boys?

It saddens me when sports is used for an excuse to fight. All around the world, we get news of people who get hurt after a football match if they are from different teams, we hear hate comments if a player doesn’t perform, we get critics when things don’t go the way we want and we generate an environment that is hostile.

Sports is not the excuse to bring out all the bad in us. On the contrary sport gives opportunities.

If I hadn’t found squash along my way, who knows where I would be.

Squash became my passion for good. It was my means to be happy, to encourage myself to push my limits, it helped me to grow personally and physically and, above all, showed me the universal love that comes through sports.

I would like to call on everyone to stop using the double-edged sword. I believe that sports is a synonym of peace.

In sports, there shouldn’t be room for hatred or for discrimination. Sports, although we wish our team always wins, gives us belief and a moment to share with the people we love.

It’s a moment of community and joining of people that love the same thing.

Let’s appreciate the power of sports and honour it by enjoying the opportunities it gives us. It can really change our world.

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