I am not a football fan. And pardon me if you already knew what I am going to share. But my visit to one of the world’s top clubs in the Spanish capital was not only memorable but also changed the way I think of sports’ power to change. Not just entertain. For starters, there’s nothing ‘real’ about Real Madrid. The word is ‘Royal’ which is said like ‘ReaAAL’ in Spanish. And that also explains the crown in their logo.
We spent four good hours with the some part of the management and with the foundation run by the football club. It amazes me that in India we associate sport with money, power and politics. But I can’t remember associating our biggest game, cricket with charity. Individual players do their own bit. But for India’s billion people, sport has the power to be the force for inspiration. A force of change. That unfortunately has just not come through. In fact, we don’t know how to channel this collectively. Everyone wants individual credit. They want attention. Probably a dash of bollywood and boom that’s their sense of selflessness. Not to mention this blog comes at an ugly phase of cricket marred with betting and spot fixing in India. I was humbled to see the work Real Madrid foundation has done in Nazareth, a small town in Tamil Nadu and even in Calcutta. There are training under privileged children with sports and then inducing ways to educate them. They are bringing together people with football. Helping erase deep lines of distrust, recklessness and suspicion. I don’t suggest no sport has its misgivings. I am sure football and Real Madrid have their share of controversy but I think where I feel we have a sense of right on cricket is how our officials behave. How so few, often corrupt, often not even cricketers wield this power over the game. It’s become a political game. And tragically there is no aspect of the game where we are seeing work that use sport to collect, to impress and to impart a sense of dignity for people. I think that’s where we have something to learn.
I learnt more than that. Like I said I have little interest in fooball so everything was new.
On the sidelines I saw what most fans would want to spend hours doing. The changing room of the Real Madrid players, standing by Ronaldo’s locker. There was no glamour in this. I liked that. These gods of the ground were treated with a clinical sense of purpose. Keeping them fit, putting them through rigorous exercise and just instilling a sense of why they are there. What was tremendous fun was that we were lined up like the players just at the exit, where they get the first glimpse of the other team, eye to eye. I guess for the players this is the moment of national pride when they step out to see the field with Real Madrid written on it and 85000 fans. That must be some feeling.
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