Global series: Political sport

Sport is much more than a game, as fans everywhere would attest.

In the developing world, athletics can play an outsized role in society, serving as a political tool, a lucrative and legal exit plan and a font of national pride. As the Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano wrote, “[T]he player who embodies the nation marches off to win glory on far-off battlefields. If he returns defeated, the warrior becomes a fallen angel.”

The Conversation’s Political sport series investigates how cricket, football and rugby are shaking things up across the world, from the Caribbean to Kosovo and beyond.

Trinidad’s semi-professional cricket, long a feeder for Caribbean cricketers to play broad, has lost of its lustre. Tom Hodgkinson/flickr, CC BY-SA, CC BY-SA

Once a sport associated with anti-colonialism, cricket in the Caribbean has become a career path for young men with dreams of wealth and glamour. Might that explain the West Indies cricket team’s stunning recent losses? Adnan Hossain

The story depicts a young Wallisian man trying to make it in the world of rugby in France. 3 B Productions

Sport migrations emerge within a general migratory context. In some societies, like the Pacific Islands, adulthood, particularly for men, isn’t really complete unless one goes abroad. And that’s where rugby comes in. Niko Besnier

Young footballers dream of places far away and are ready to migrate at all costs. Uroš Kovač, Author provided, Author provided

What do concepts like “cheating” and “performance enhancement” mean to young footballers in West Africa, where the supernatural is seen as a force to be harnessed for athletic success? Uroš Kovač

Kosovo fans cheer as their team takes on Finland at a September 2016 football match. Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva/Reuters

In Kosovo’s long struggle to gain international recognition of its statehood, football has helped the country reach some major goals. Loïc Trégourès

The story of Chan Yeun-ting’s success is widely framed as a major step for women who take on managerial roles in male-dominated sports. Ed Sykes/Reuters

For most women, coaching a men’s team is still off-limits. But, in 2016, a young female football coach from Hong Kong made history, becoming the first woman ever to lead a men’s team to a national title. Tobias Zuser

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