5 memorabilia that prove Mahatma Gandhi was never interested in cricket and other sports

Sudipta / 02 November 2015

5 memorabilia that proved Mahatma Gandhi was never interested in cricket and other sports

In the month of August, the India versus South Africa bilateral series was named after two greatest revolutionary –Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela-from two tormented British colony of the 20th century. Indian Cricket Governing Body BCCI and its South African counterpart Cricket South Africa (CSA) have a big plan to give the series marquee status. So, they opted to rely on renowned freedom fighters who led their respective countries’ freedom struggle and ultimately succeeded. BCCI and CSA named it “Gandhi-Mandela Trophy” for the series across the formats. 

But, Mahatma Gandhi was not interested in sports. He used to think cricket and football were games of Britain, so why should colonial people accept them? According to him farming is the greatest sport and education was the only thing that could bring people together.

So, here are the five incidents that proved Gandhi had little interest in sports

1)World Boxing Championship 1910

In Reno, USA, the World Championship of boxing had drawn a worldwide attention. White Jim Jeffries vs black Jack Johnson were vying for the grand finale of the contest. But, Gandhi, who was a believer of non-violence, belittled the interest among the old, young, and rich, poor. Even some have travelled to Reno from Europe. He wrote an editorial in Indian Opinion to brush aside people’s interest that surrounded the heavyweight championship. He asked. What did they see? “Two men hitting each other and displaying their brute strength. The people of America went mad over this show, and America is reckoned a very civilized country!” Gandhi further wrote, “the extreme limit of barbarism. However strong the bodies of Jefferies and Johnson, they may be reduced to wrecks in an instant. It is doubtful if the millions who had assembled at the show ever thought of this even in their dreams”.

2) 1932 the Olympics Hockey

In 1928, India had won Olympics Gold.Three years later  Indian Hockey Federation chief CE Newham requested Gandhi to dispatch a message to the Indian team, which was filled with the Indians before the preparatory camp started. But, Gandhi said it was not possible for him, because “You can have no knowledge of my amazing dullness and ignorance. You will be surprised to know that I do not know what really the game of hockey is. I have never, to my recollection, watched any game either in England, South Africa or in India.”

3) He said playing cricket is a useless act

Gandhi, who was once forced to hold a cricket bat by his primary school headmaster, deplored cricket the football mania while writing  on education for a Gujarati magazine, “The idea that, if our boys and youths do not have football, cricket and other games, their life should become too drab is completely erroneous. The sons of our peasants never get a chance to play cricket, but there is no dearth of joy or innocent zest in their life.”

He further wrote, “I have never attended cricket matches and only once took a bat and a cricket ball in my hands and that was under compulsion from the headmaster of the High School where I was studying, and this was 45 years ago. This confession does not in any shape or form mean that I am opposed to games, only I have never been able to interest myself in them.”



4) Once attended a football match out of affection

In South Africa, football was a popular sports in the migrated Tamils. Gandhi was once invited to be the patron fo their sporting clubs in Durban and Johannesburg. Gandhi accepted the request for his Tamil friends. But, when he returned in India after his 21 years of sojourn in South Africa, where he heralded the migrated Indian’s struggle against the exploitation by English colonial, wrote a letter to his friends on his observation on sports.

Gandhi remarked, “a sound body means one which bends itself to the spirit and is always a ready instrument in its service. Such bodies are not made, in my opinion, on the football field. They are made on cornfields and farms. I would urge you to think this over and you will find innumerable illustrations to prove my statement. Our colonial-born Indians are carried away with this football and cricket mania. These games may have their place under certain circumstances. But I feel sure that for us, who are just now so fallen, they have no room. Why do we not take the simple fact into consideration that the vast majority of mankind who are vigorous in body and mind are simple agriculturists, that they are strangers to these games, and they are the salt of the earth? Without them, your and my existence would be an impossibility whereas you and I are totally unnecessary for their well-being.”

5) He snubbed the idea of keeping sports page on his paper Indian opinion

In 1910, Gandhi was once asked, Why did not he keep a page devoted to sports in Indian opinion? Gandhi said if the paper was not dedicated to the cause of Indian struggle in South Africa they “would not unprepared” to have a section on the sport. Then he further said, “But we ask our young friends whether the sport should occupy so much of our time and attention as it does now. Indeed, those Indians who know what is going on around them, cannot afford to be in a sporting mood. Our forefathers did wonderfully well without the fashionable sport of today. Sport indulged in for the sake of developing the body is of some use. But we venture to suggest that agriculture, the inherited occupation of Indians – indeed of the human race – is better sport than football, cricket and all other games put together.”

But, on the contrary to Gandhi, his South African counterpart Mandela was a passionate fan of any sports. In 1995, when South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup after the end of the aprthied ear, he relied on the game to unite a divided nation, where racism was rampant. Blacks were chanting against Afrikaner-dominated Springbok rugby team. Mandela said, “this is time to build our nation”. South African Rugby team, which was comprised of white Africans won the tournament, a teary white and black citizens hug each other.

Mandela in the final of the tournament thanked the team for the contribution. He was also a true follower of the cricket. He met India team when they visited South Africa in 1992. Even when he was in the Robben Island jail he once asked: “Is Bradman still alive?”




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