Two unrelated sports events in different sports and on different Continents made me ponder about the essence of modern sport.

Firstly on Saturday, 28 January 2012 I watched a live women’s hockey international between South Africa and Ireland at the Randburg Stadium in Johannesburg, with the local girls edging out the Irish 1- 0 (another goal from World Record Holder, Pietie Coetzee’s prolific stick!)

To be honest it was not a great match and the South African Team looked a bit jaded.  But is that any wonder as they have a frenetic programme of approximately 20 matches in a month preparing for their Olympic Qualifier in New Delhi?  To someone from Mars this would appear strange as they had already technically qualified for the London Olympics by winning the Africa Olympic Qualifier in Bulawayo in October last year, but that does not fulfil the criteria of South Africa’s Olympic Body – SASCOC.  So in search of the ultimate hockey dream in a sport where remuneration is minimal, sacrifices are massive and the cost of following the Olympic dream for National Associations and players is immense, the South African teams are putting their bodies through hell!  But it is not only their bodies but their studies, careers, personal relationships and more.  The same applies to the men’s team who make the long pilgrimage to Japan in May for identical reasons to their female counterparts.  The trip to Japan is likely to
cost at least $200000,00 and the preparation for the crucial “gunfight at OK Corral” will massively add to the housekeeping bills!

Contrast this with that magnificent duel of modern day gladiators in the Australian Men’s Open final on Sunday 29 January 2012 where Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal put their bodies on the line and duelled for 5 hours and 53 minutes in one of the most – enthralling tennis matches of modern times.  The skill, determination, fitness, courage and desire to win of these magnificent athletes was amazing to behold.  Their sportsmanship was also magnificent!

These characteristics are also embodied in Olympic Hockey players and I know that not only the South African teams but all the aspirant Olympic competitors share this!

The difference is Novak Djokovic takes away $2.4 million for his agony and ecstasy in front of a combined live and TV audience of millions.  For most hockey players the years, months and hours of toil and sacrifice has a purer motive - the dream of playing in an Olympics with no monetary rewards.

Which true lover of sport would want to deny them this dream?


Steve Jaspan