Sport, like any other human activity, can contribute to strengthening our character, friendship and respect for others.
Competitive spirit that stimulates to improve our body and strengthen our personality always implies a relationship between human beings.
Even in solitary sports, we imagine we are competing with others, who are encouraging us to become better.
Due to relationships involved in sports, since ancient Greek times, sports competition has indicated, for better or for worse, the degree of civilization of human kind.
It can be used by dictatorships to convey the racist message of the superiority of a race or nation and it can become a tool of ideological propaganda for totalitarian regimes; or it can become the expression of moral wealth of a democratic society that enhances equality in sports contention and the purpose of which is always exalting individual or collective performance in a spirit of friendship.
As Greek poet Hesiod realized, there is always an opportunity of good competition, which strengthens the character and the will of individuals and educates to respect opponents, and bad competition, which instead exalts the ego of superiority and aims at annihilating the other.
In recent years the most significant experience of good agonism has come from South Africa, where, after the years of apartheid, President Nelson Mandela wanted the national rugby team to become the vehicle for reconciliation of white and black people, the symbol of possible integration in his country.
Conversely, the football match of 13th May 1990 at Maksimir stadium between Dinamo Zagreb and Red Star Belgrade unleashed a bloody guerrilla war between the relevant supporters that anticipated the civil war in former Yugoslavia.. Supporters in that stadium did not cheer for sport, but rather considered sport competition as the fight against an enemy that had to be destroyed. That match, exploited by nationalists, therefore laid the foundations for the imminent war. Opposing footballers were hated and the ball was to be replaced by weapons. Today, in a dangerous time where hatred and nationalisms are coming back, where in the name of a religion massacres are committed, where black athletes are insulted in stadiums, where an Arab athlete is prevented from competing and shaking hands with an Israeli athlete, it is necessary to bring back the values of good and positive competition in sport.
As history taught us, sometimes sport can save the world, because the behaviour of athletes, supporters and even sport journalists can positively impact on the democratic life in our societies.
Exercising sports with an Olympic spirit helps peace, cohabitation and sows good among human beings.
Every athlete should be aware that in competition it is always the presence of the other that pushes him or her to improve, and for this reason he or she should act fairly towards the other and respect his or her dignity.Agonism does not divide human beings in a brutal struggle of annihilation, but rather unites them in the same path in the sports agora. Due to their popularity, athletes become an example for society; for this reason, as Greek philosophers hoped, they should not be caught up in hybris, that is seeking power over the others and use illicit means. Athletes at all levels are really great when they recognize their limit and are always willing to recognize the value of their opponents. According to Greeks, sport teaches that there will never be the best ever, because in the constant cycle of life better athletes will always follow. This is the beauty of sports competition, where in stadiums, in swimming pools, in athletic fields, athletes compete with each other in the same way as responsible individuals deal with each other in institutions. Dialogue and competitive spirit have something in common as the constant search for truth, like that of sports performance, never ends and brings people together in a common destiny. It is no coincidence that the word agorà (the place of assembly and democracy for citizens) and agon (agonism) have the same root in Greek.
In turn, viewers should be educated to cheer positively and never against their team’s opponents, because sports are a relationship between human beings where enemies should never exist and where supporters’ favourites cannot always turn out to be winners. Cheering one’s own team as well as opponents’ in defeat in stadiums, recognizing the human limit of athletes, is a proof of sporting maturity.
Applauses and the greatest recognition should go to athletes who have taken their responsibility for the salvation of human kind in the face of major emergencies, as it happened to great footballers who saved Jews during the Holocaust, to those athletes who fought to defend human dignity in Africa and Latin America, or those athletes who did not bow to the submission of women and to religious impositions in the Middle East and Asia.
Their stories are not limited to stadiums or the sports field: their examples have a crucial ethical meaning for the sporting agony.
Recognizing the value of these individuals and telling their gestures to athletes offers moral parameters to behave in a worthy and honest way in the same sports competition. Those who appreciate the altruism of great cyclist Gino Bartali, who hid hundreds of false documents in the barrel of his bicycle to save Jews during fascism; the sacrifice of Ethiopian marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa, who arrived at the finish line with his hands crossed to denounce the persecution of Oromos and thus lost his place in the team and could no longer go back to his country; the courage of Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini, who became the champion of refugees of her war-torn country; of Algerian middle-distance runner Hassiba Boulmerka, who struggled to run without covering her face, are more respectful of opponents and reject racist behaviour and ethnic, religious or gender discrimination.
Sport is not a separate island, as Primo Levi would say today, because inside it the best behaviours of society can occur, or become a place where the worst germs are nourished.
This is why it is necessary to gather and disseminate the stories of the Righteous of sport, to create a spirit of emulation in stadiums and in sports fields.
With this aim, Gariwo proposes the annex to 2017 Charter of Responsibility, on the theme of sport. Let us imagine that everyone, whether a supporter, athlete or sports journalist, can personally take on these values and ethical behaviours.
director of the Candido Cannavò Foundation
captain Geas Basket
correspondent from NewYork of Il Sole 24 Ore
Italian swimmer seven times world champion
sports journalist for Avvenire
journalist for Il Fatto Quotidiano, former co-founder of La Repubblica
olympic long-distance runner (Gold in Los Angeles '84)
olympic racewalker (Gold in Moscow '80)
olympic long-distance runner (Gold in Los Angeles '84)
author and director, promoter of the Giacinto Facchetti Foundation
race walker (European record holder of the 50 km)
vice-president of the Italian Triathlon Federation
AC Milan midfielder and captain of the South African women's national team
olympic marathon runner (Moscow ’80; Los Angeles ’84)
basketball player (Silver in Moscow '80)
president Stramilano Running Club
journalist for La Repubblica
long-distance runner (Gold in Rome '87)
writer, former director of La7 Sport
journalist for Il Giornale and marathon runner
swimmer (Gold in Athens '91)
writer and journalist UCEI
AC Milan women's sector manager
2001 Italian champion with Roma and president of Assocalciatori
Italian deaf national coach and Knight of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
Jean Blanchaert, artist; Gianluca Colonnello, coach and footballer (105 Serie A appearances); Giovanna Grenga, Beth Hillel; Giampaolo Gualla, president of CUS Pro Patria Milano Triathlon; Marcattilio Marcattilii, Sassuolo technical staff; Cristina Miedico, director of the Archaeological Museum of Angera; Giorgio Mortara, UCEI vice president; Ordine dei Giornalisti d’Abruzzo; Roberto Tortora, journalist for SportMediaset; Unione Stampa Sportiva Abruzzo.
Among sportspeople we find some Righteous figures who fought for life and human dignity, giving us an example which is even more important to remember in those difficult days.
She could have had everything: money, fame, career, but saying that no, the no of the Righteous, she chose to lose everything for not losing herself and her dignity and moral integrity.
That night the dinghy she was travelling on was about to sink: she dragged it to the shore, swimming. From that moment on, she devoted herself to sport and the rights of refugees.