Conundrums in the world of sport (400)

A fascinating example of the default syndrome, as described yesterday, is occurring right now in the world of soccer — more specifically, the soccer played on these islands. The British Olympic Committee want to go against the ratchet and bring a UK Football Team into existence in order to take part in the 2012 Games. It’s been plotting this for six years apparently. It’s been rather similar to Gordon Brown’s constant speechifying with a ‘United Kingdom’ theme during those two years when he was Prime Minister because he was acutely sensitive that he was a Scotsman (with a Scottish accent to boot!) trying to maintain the UK as a world power. Of course, no-one took any notice of this attempt at old-fashioned jingoism because the UK — as was — is just an ordinary country these days. Besides, Scotland and Wales, with their own elected assemblies in Glasgow and Cardiff, are already on their way towards complete independence, Northern Ireland remains ungovernable and — Gosh! — some English people are actually calling for an English Parliament. (Presumably — although they are too polite to say so — wanting to send Gordon Brown back to where he belongs. In this, they are partially successful in that he hardly shows his face publicly in England now while still remaining an MP and occasionally attending the House of Commons.)

Anyhow, the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Football Associations will have none of it. They already have their independent status registered with the soccer’s world governing body, FIFA, and don’t want to compromise this. Then again, they have their own defaulting problems. Increasingly, some players have actually been turning down invitations to play for their national side, saying that they’re already playing enough games at club level.

Well . . . we’ll have to wait to see who wins. But this raises another sporting puzzle in my mind. This is that although the prowess and financial perquisites of top sports individuals have never been higher than today, young people in the advanced countries are increasingly avoiding physical exercise, according to some surveys. They’ll watch sports but don’t want to take part in it. There’s an athletic/fitness gap opening up alongside the wealth/income gap which separates the top 20% or so of the population (who generally “do” sports) from the rest who are merely watchers.

With those two conundrums I’ll wrap up this morning and have breakfast.

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