A Break in the Ball Drop....
Like many people here in Uganda, I've started to follow the various early stage Olympic Games. Right now, I am watching Nigeria v.s. Japan in soccer (and Nigeria just scored the first goal of the match). In 1996, and maybe you wouldn't believe it, but Nigeria won the Gold Medal in soccer. Don't believe me?
Tonight I'll look forward to the USA v.s. China basketball game. The stage is set for the U.S. to redeem itself from it's terrible performance at Athens in 2004.
However, this morning, I watched Russia v.s. Iran. Russia, who has star NBA player Andrei Kirilenko, was the overwhelming favorite, and defeated Iran 71-49. However, Iran played a fantastic game and fans cheered them on throughout the game.
After the game was truly the BIG moment (and thanks to ESPN for putting this on their homepage). Reporters had questioned the team members about the tensions between Iran and Israel. In response, it is reported that Russian Coach, David Blatt (who holds dual Israeli and American Citizenship) and Iranian Team Captain, Mohammed Nikkah, shared a hug and pat on the back. The questions came about after an Iranian swimmer refused to participate in a pre Olympic meet because an Israeli athlete was competing in the same race.
This demonstration of hope, and friendship through sport - even in the face of prejudice - is alive across the globe.
In fact, to bring it back to Africa for a moment in 1999, the East and Central Africa Club Championship was being held in Uganda between two countries that have been in conflict for several years, Ethiopia and Eritrea. During their stay in Kampala, the media and locals reported that the teams were sharing smiles, laughs and a meal before the match.
There is more work ahead and the challenges are many, but sports is a way that we can further embrace cultures, societies, and peace in our world.