Undisputedly, sports have a unique way of making a positive impact on society. Whether it’s helping children, communities, or even nations, sports makes a difference.
Sports are fun. Nearly everyone has participated in a sporting activity in their lifetime. Sports have affected past generations, and our generation, and will affect many generations to come. But even though sports have been around for so long, many people don’t know how sports can benefit nations.
Here are some benefits of sports on the African continent.
Sports as a Tool for Youth Development
Sport can decisively contribute to productive youth development, enabling children and youth to become mentally and physically healthy adults, as well as productive and socially responsible members of society.
Sports inspire, sports teach valuable lessons, and sports are irresistible. By channelling fundamental values, sports can add to a young person’s future. By further combining sports with education targeted at issues African youths are facing right now, sports can serve as a tool to equip its participants with the knowledge and readiness to overcome any opponent in any arena.
For the young, sports are a source of inspiration. In Cameroon, basketball players like Joël Embiid and Pascal Siakam who play in the NBA, UFC world champion Francis Ngannou, and famous soccer player and president of the Cameroonian Football Federation Samuel Eto’o Fils are all icons who have shown how sports can serve as a means of upward social mobility, especially for marginalized youth.
Sports as an Instrument of Peace and Unity
Sports are another small step to creating a better, peaceful world. In the words of the late President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, “Sports has the power to inspire and it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sports can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers”. This conviction has since been reinforced.
Sport is the most unifying tool for peace in the world. It brings together people of various ethnicities, races, and backgrounds, thereby fostering oneness. From the Olympics to table tennis tournaments to soccer the team players work together in unity disregarding their differences while their supporters get together in unison to cheer on their team, putting aside political tensions, cultural differences, and inequality.
A typical example of the oneness sports foster can be witnessed when a major soccer game is being played. No other social activity brings people together in such great numbers, and with so much passion and enjoyment. Scores and dozens of men gather at viewing centres or their favourite spots regardless of their status, religion, or political inclination to cheer on their favourite teams. When a team is winning, there is no line among the supporters. The love and unity are palpable.
Sports as Entertainment
Sport brings entertainment to people as they escape the reality of life, responsibilities, and their various mundane tasks for a while. It is perhaps the most popular form of entertainment in Africa and several Africans enjoy one form of sport or the other.
Sports for Economic Development
Although sport is mostly considered a form of entertainment, sport is also organized, mechanized, marketed, and administered as a business. Sports have the potential to foster development and economic growth. It creates business opportunities for sports start-ups.
Some soccer stars playing abroad have become millionaires through their sporting talents.
Most have invested in their home countries; For example, Samuel Eto’o started a telecommunications company in Cameroon. This is good for the economy and employment creation. Some other players have also started soccer academies to promote the sport from grassroots levels and to assist in discovering talented players.
Sports Tournaments may be the biggest boost to an economy. The FIFA World Cup was held in Africa for the first time in history in 2010. South Africa was the host. According to sources, the nation spent 3 billion dollars developing the country; FIFA also spent over 1.2 billion dollars in South Africa. South Africa will go on to experience in the long term, a 6 billion dollar economy boost. Tournaments like these would have a similar effect on developing African nations. More tournaments mean more money for the hosting nation and the continent at large.
In addition, some large companies in Africa, including commercial banks, sponsor sporting events and recruit sports personalities to market their products and increase sales. Sports paraphernalia are among the hottest-selling items in the world’s leisure market, including scarves, shorts, hats, mugs, and ashtrays.
Sport Creates Job Opportunities
Beyond economic development, sport creates job opportunities as an offshoot of the development it fosters. It creates employment for the sportspersons as well as their coaches, agents, referees, linesmen, videographers, photographers and medical teams, and the engineers who build sports infrastructures.
Off the field or court, manufacturing jerseys, socks, whistles, balls, and other sporting essentials create employment.
Young people must be made aware of these opportunities, that specially adapted training courses be incorporated into the education system, and that the youth be encouraged to pursue them.
Sports Has the Potential to Effect Social Change
Sporting activities are a major strategy to manage and control youth restiveness as well as social instability on the continent. It is an essential part of the value system for society; it constitutes a distinct kind of social organization, provides a basis of social identity, and acts as an agent of social control. Studies have shown that societies that encourage sports have lower crime rates. Sport may also remove young people from negative influences like anti-social peer groups, drugs and alcohol, low-self esteem, and boredom.
This is simply because when sports teams are formed they foster unity amongst all team members. By playing together, Africa’s young people unwittingly learn the universal values of respect, tolerance, and fair play.
Sport Promotes Fitness and Well Being
A sporting nation has a high quality of life because physical exercise promotes fitness and general well-being. Sport and physical activity improve individual health and wellbeing, both physically and mentally. Sports are associated with lower rates of stress, anxiety, depression, and suicidal behaviour.
A healthier population reduces the health-related expenses of a nation. Youths who participate in competitive sports are less likely to be regular smokers or drug users, they are more likely to stay in school and have good conduct and high academic achievement.
Sport Fosters Cooperation and Team Spirit
Sports are far more than an after-school activity or a means of entertainment. It builds teamwork. The essence of teamwork is a group of people working together to achieve a common goal. While this seems simple, it requires a lot of dedication and perseverance.
Successful teams must overcome many obstacles and be willing to learn and grow together. Because of the complexity of being part of a team and participating in sports, Africans, especially youths can experience quite a lot of personal growth while receiving several benefits and life skills.
Sports teams are an amazing way for people to experience diversity and learn to cooperate with others. Every member of a sports team must work together to achieve success, so individual differences have to be put aside. The diverse mix of personalities and challenges that athletes face helps them become patient, persistent, and adaptable.
Sports are more than just a game and should be considered a cultural and economic means of uplifting the African continent. Sports stands for good governance, respect for the rules, fair play, honesty, and discipline.
African countries can take advantage of the benefits that emanate from sports to foster unity, peace, development, and stability among other benefits sports breeds.