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  • Writer's pictureMarie Arnaudon

Let's save the great stories of sport

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

"Sport is the surpassing of oneself. Sport is a school of life".

said the former coach of the French soccer team Aimé Jacquet. This message is one that has marked the history of sport. Ajax Amsterdam of 2018 is the most perfect example: this team with rejuvenated and offensive soccer has made the big European teams like Real Madrid and Juventus of Turin fold in the Champions League. But, if we pay a little more attention to the world of sports, we realize that such stories are becoming increasingly rare. Let's look at what happened to the great stories in sports?

The romantic stories of sport are essentially based on the role that sport plays in our societies.

Romanticism is symbolized by the emotions that the author, the painter, the man depicts at a moment T. Sport, because of its role in society, captures the emotions of the whole population and plays a crucial role in its life. Indeed, it regulates the week, creates models and heroes for the youth and allows to forget its personal problems and to dream for a moment.

This is something that the young French soccer hopeful Kylian Mbappe has quickly integrated by saying that for him :

Soccer is more than a sport, just look at the impact it has on society.

It is an integral part of the weekly routine of a population. The most obvious example of this in France is the city of Marseille. No matter what day of the week it is, an Olympique de Marseille match brings the city to a halt for 90 minutes. The people of Marseille come together to support their team, even if the team's performance is not the best.

The place of sport in society is also explained by the personalization of the relationship between the sportsman and the spectator.

Indeed, the Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna said:

"Ideally, we are what we think. In reality, we are what we achieve".

For Senna, only the field defines the quality of the athlete and the extras should not change that. Money should not interfere with the quality of performance. Many people do sports, many individuals do karting, but none will be Ayrton Senna. The process of identification makes that one thinks to be him at a moment T but the titles which he gained, the duels which he had with Alain Prost is what makes him the greatest pilot that the formula 1. This phenomenon of personalization appeared in particular in France after the victory in the 1998 World Cup. We saw French people from different backgrounds win in France, at home.

This major role of sport in society has brought into the performance of new parameters that now regulate the rankings of all sports.

This social role for a country has brought a very political dimension to sport and it would be silly to think that sport is completely apolitical. This showcase also becomes a national showcase that allows a country to showcase itself through the hosting of a major sporting event and through the performance of the athletes that represent it. Russia understood very well this role of the sport and tried at all costs to make it turn in its favor. The latter received the Winter Olympics of 2014 in Sochi. The country knew that the influence of Russi would pass by the performance of the athletes. So it decided to make this possible by organizing a state doping that allowed athletes to be doped without being positive. Since then, investigations have shown these unsportsmanlike facts and the athletes are banned from international sports competitions for four years.

But that this growing place in the world has increased above all, is the sports economy. This economy that has come to disrupt the order of the rankings regardless of the sport.

The investments follow one another and the inflation becomes common in the sports field. The sport is a source of investment since it is a showcase. Events such as the World Cup soccer final, the 100m at the Olympics or the Super Bowl are events that are consumed by billions of people.

Sport therefore generates investments from companies, but we must distinguish between ability to succeed and success. The performance of the French clubs in the European soccer cups of the last few years, and more precisely Paris-Saint-Germain, demonstrates this. Since its acquisition by Qatar, the ambition of the Parisian club is to win the cup with the big ears and for that the club of the capital did not stop beating the records of transfers. But, since 2011, the club has never gone beyond the quarterfinals and over the last five years has struggled to get beyond the round of 16, producing performances that some might call pathetic. They have all the capacities to succeed with a team composed of the greatest European players, dominate the French championship but do not succeed.

The politicization of sport and the increasing role of economics seem to have destroyed the possibility of seeing romance in sport again. The latter seems to resist for the pleasure of sports fans.

The beautiful stories are those that combine performance and unexpectedness. We could call them feats, but that would be to limit their existence, since in sport what makes the truth is not the money, as I have shown previously, the politicization of sport, but the field. It is what remains in the memories at the end. These memories are often based on emotions, personalization: in short, they are based on what makes the essence of sport, the surpassing of oneself in order to touch the deepest part of one's heart. History is full of examples. The last French victory at Roland Garros is a beautiful story. Yannick Noah, 23 years old, on June 5, 1983 won the French grand slam tournament. This victory is the symbol of the outstanding generosity of the tennis player who never considered his victory that of an "I" but that of a "we". The emotions linked to a great French expectation made his victory one of those romantic stories that will mark the French sport. But, this is not just a past phenomenon. In 2018, the Vendée soccer club Les Herbiers of Nationale reached the French Cup final against the lIgue 1 champion Paris St Germain with a budget 270 times smaller. The Herbiers, although technically inferior, showed courage and still disturbed the Parisians with their physical soccer. A performance that forced the admiration of the whole France and their opponents.

The major place of sport in our societies has increased the economic investments changing consequently the parameters of the performances. But let's save the beautiful stories of sport, those that have seen the most unexpected, the most romantic victories because they are the link between the common man and the athlete.

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