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“Violent cricket nationalism in Bangladesh”
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“Violent cricket nationalism in Bangladesh”

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Monica IslamCricket fans are passionate about supporting their teams, but as Monica Islam, 24, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Dhaka in Bangladesh writes, fans should not endorse violent words or attitudes.

A three-day cricket series between India and Bangladesh concluded on June 24, with Bangladesh emerging as the winner of the series. India, however, averted a washout – a “Banglawash” by winning the final match of the series.

Fans of the Bangladesh cricket team, expecting a series sweep, were suddenly humbled. They praised and consoled the Bangladeshi players, but had neither jeers nor appreciation for the Indian opponents. They decided to focus on the commendable performance of the national players instead of making India the object of attention for this series (arrogance alert!).

Before the final match, the atmosphere in the Bangladeshi community was different. Bangladeshi fans boisterously lauded the national team’s victory through the use of crude sexual terms, such as “baladkar kore de” (rape India).

Asif Mohiuddin, a Bangladeshi atheist blogger and human rights activist who sought asylum in Germany following death threats, explains that such remarks, which are unwittingly being used by women and children too, venerate a culture where rape is normal; where sexual intimacy is a sign of revenge, humiliation, and domination; and where one person during sexual intimacy is subjugated to a “sexual servant”—a vulnerable being who receives the “shame” and does not participate in the act at all.

On June 27, a leading national newspaper ran a photo along with news titled “We Can Beat South Africa”, in which the confident captain of the Bangladeshi cricket team can be seen with an aggressive facial expression, his middle finger propped up. This photo is being interpreted by a few observant netizens as a subtle reference to the sexualized victory chants that are popular among local fans.

These remarks not only reflect the nation’s attitude towards rape, but also point to a bigger problem of violent cricket nationalism in Bangladesh.

After the second match of the aforementioned series in Dhaka, Sudhir Gautam, the most visible fan of Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, was allegedly attacked with jeers and stones by angry fans near the stadium. Although eyewitnesses have dismissed claims of any physical assault, the fact remains that Sudhir Gautam felt threatened by a mob of unruly supporters of the Bangladesh cricket team. This has led to reporters in Bangladesh expressing their displeasure with such malicious fans.

Previously, during the 2015 ICC World Cup, loyal fans of the Bangladesh cricket team took offence to comments by former Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja. His effigies were burnt on the streets across Bangladesh, and online campaigns calling for a ban on the commentator erupted. This is just one of those many instances that demonstrate the vicious attitude some Bangladeshi fans seem to have adopted. It is very easy to provoke them. Hospitality takes a back seat.

Sports nationalism, or the relationship between sports and politics, is nothing new, and it is not characteristic of Bangladesh alone. Many research studies have been dedicated to this subject, and there are plenty of examples from around the world. During the 2014 FIFA World Cup semi-final, the word-of-the-mouth was how “Germany raped Brazil.”

Overzealous fans of both India and Pakistan reportedly smashed their TV sets when their respective motherlands were ousted from the 2015 ICC World Cup. Pakistani fans went on to stage a “mock funeral” for the team!

Cricket nationalism is not all negative; it can undoubtedly unite the country. But when that unity results in harmful language, values, and behaviour, especially directed at people from other countries, then it is time to move away from what is really violent cricket nationalism.

Photo credit: Bangladeshi Fan before the match via photopin (license)
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About me:

I aim to advance human rights and social justice through the media. I am a prolific reader, writer, and development-enthusiast.

I have attended several development-oriented conferences and media trainings at home and abroad, such as Global Social Business Summit (Austria), UNFPA Global Youth Forum (Indonesia), and Asia-Pacific Youth Parliament for Water (South Korea). I’d like to think of myself as a versatile person who is open to multiple intersecting possibilities.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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