Sports is a uniting force

Editorial

THE Papua New Guinea National Women’s soccer team arrived in Port Moresby with a water salute signalling their outstanding performance that led to being crowned the Oceania champions.
PNG won the OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022 for the first time after beating host nation Fiji 2-1 in the final on Saturday.
After previously finishing as runners-up on three occasions PNG is now champions of Oceania and have also qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Play-Off Tournament in February.
In July, Lachlan Lam revived memories of his famous father, Adrian, as he led PNG to an epic 24-14 defeat of Fiji and helped send Kumuls captain David Mead out a winner in the Pacific Test at Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Sydney.
The celebrations from the respective wins united everyone regardless of which political sides, one was it.
Prime Minister James Marape on both occasion was one of the first to congratulate the team.
He said the way the Kumuls had united the nation, especially at that time the General Election 2022 had just stated.
For the national women’s soccer team, he was the “best news” for PNG after a week of bad news about election-related violence.
“Papua New Guinea wanted something to be happy about, especially after all the bad news about election-related violence, and that’s exactly what our young women soccer stars delivered tonight,” he said.
Sports definitely is a catalytic agent for national unity in a culturally diverse country.
In the pre-independence era, our athletes united a fragmented nation through their spirited performances in athletics, boxing, and rugby league.
Rugby league dubbed as the national sport is rooted in the emotions of rivalries that flared up in an institutionalised arena, the playing field.
The level playing field with a referee carved a sense of respect for rules that controls human behaviour that should not infringe on the freedom of another individual.
Sports have done its part in nurturing moral behaviour in our citizens.
For the PNG women’s soccer team following the 2019 Pacific Games, there has been little to no premiere domestic competition for the women in PNG and zero international fixtures until the team’s recent appearance in the Tri-Nations series in April against hosts Singapore and Seychelles, where PNG won both matches.
Over the years, much of the focus of the PNG Football Association has been on the men’s national team, and their premiere league, as opposed to the women’s.
However, it was the PNG women who thrived and proved to be successful in the Pacific, with an improved FIFA ranking (49th) while the PNG men are ranked 162.
Globally, sports in all forms unite a nation and instil patriotism and facilitate a national consciousness by her citizens.
In major sporting events such as the Commonwealth Games and Olympics, some of poorest countries in the world have produced world-class athletes that brought pride and add value to their national identity. Most athletes from under developed nations
are supported by the International Athletics Association Federation (IAAF), which plays a vital
role in nurturing their natural talents.
The challenge for local sport authorities is to facilitate its programmes on an institutionalised and well-coordinated approach.
Tourism in sports is a lucrative industry if properly harnessed and linked to businesses.
We have shown in 2015 when PNG hosted the Pacific Games that we are a force to reckon with in the Pacific region.
The contribution sport can make towards peace-building efforts has generally been considered at the grassroots and nation state levels.
Only sports will unite PNG as one nation, one people, one country.

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