They seem so friendly. Laugh at the right things. At the same time. They might disagree on a technique used, or the way the ball was kicked from this or that angle. But never on essential things, as why sport matters or not, why football should be distributed day or night on each families TV all over the country. Or wherever one is in the world. Or something as essential as freedom of speech. Or should I say, about who has the right to mean something about football.
In my world, meanings should differ. That’s what interesting about opinions, that different opinions do exist. When they differ, similar opinions, with different words are totally uninteresting. Boring. Talk about sport on television is about consensus from different groups of men. Still, always the same men. Men play the ball, men talk about it, men might smile and laugh about it. Some of them might even pretend to be interested in someone who means something else. Actually they’re not. They´re apparently interested in someone who are saying what might seem to be different, but what is actually not.
I grew up during the seventies and I can still hear the voices of boys in my class talking about the dreadful Mohammed Ali who had gone from being a Christian to a Muslim. He was no longer only black on the outside, but also on the inside. As all Muslims were in those days. (And Lord behold, in the present day as well).
When I met my Indian Punjabi husband about 24 years ago, he was looking at sport from a non-western point of view. Who could he identify with in the west? Which kind of sportsman was holding his coloured identity as raised flag in sport, as well in life? No, my husband has never been a Muslim, he is a Sikh. Still, where were those ideals that could help minority people getting a good identity feeling?
Mohammed Ali came along. Shouting to white TV-guys that the angels in heaven where black, not white as they might have thought, and ”don’t you forget it”. Refusing to fight Vietnamese during the Vietnam war. ”What have they ever done to me?” Mohammed Ali was much more than a sportsman, he was a coloured guy who saw it as a right, and a duty, to raise values for his own race, as well as other minorities. His message: Be proud of yourself. Believe in yourself!!
I wonder how many young minority sportsmen and women he has inspired? Including his own Muslim boxing daughter.
Still back to my TV - which I watch rather reluctant only to please my handsome guy. Where the white, men of sport are. They are now commentating on a disgraceful situation where two Muslim football players where praying for good luck and a Norwegian football player made fun of them by imitating gay sex behind them, but in front of the cameras. The white group of men from west agree that freedom of speech is more important than a joke.
Well, I am not a Muslim, but when I wrote the biography of Inger Gulbrandsen, who at the age of seventeen was put in a concentration camp, she taught me something important: We were fighting for a freedom of speech that meant the right for others to disagree with us. Freedom of speech is not to give the impression that we are right and others wrong. Freedom of speech should hurt. As life hurts itself. It hurts to disagree and stand up for something you don't necessarily agree with. But first of all one needs to see that freedom of speech never belonged to a small group of wealthy western white men, but to humanity itself.