Why are we obsessed by who is the greatest of all time?

More of a philosophical post this time…

It is a question that is asked on an annual basis after the Wimbledon tennis finals. Where do they rank amongst the all time greats? Is Roger Federer the greatest male tennis player ever? Will Novak Djokovic eclipse him?  Is Serena the best female tennis player we’ve ever seen?

This phenomena is not merely confined to tennis, far from it. Any major sport you care to think of has the same ongoing debate. Is Messi the best footballer that ever lived? Is Tiger Woods better than Jack Nicklaus? LeBron James or Michael Jordan? Senna or Schumacher? O’Sullivan or Hendry? Bradman or Richards? Ali or Sugar Ray? Brady or Montana? The list is endless.

People/the media seem fixated by the issue – to use the most common example: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are constantly compared and contrasted with each other. Can’t we simply enjoy the fact that we are lucky enough to witness these two supremely talented players who have very different and individual strengths and weaknesses at the peak of their powers at the same time? They are two incredible footballers that usually come round once in a lifetime/generation. They have both set standards of consistent brilliance that may never be matched again. (For those wondering, having been fortunate enough to see both live in action on a few occasions, I’m very much in Team Messi).

I suppose part of the interest and debate stems from the intrinsically competitive nature of sport (human beings in general) and those that follow it with a passion want to know/put forward their case for who is best.  There also appears to be a desire for us to say we witnessed greatness. So we can talk to our children and our grandchildren about how good Usain Bolt was. Like our parents and grandparents would regale stories about the genius of Pele, Moore, Greaves, Maradona, Borg, McEnroe and so on.

One of the major problems is that comparing people from different eras is very difficult/nigh on impossible. As equipment, technology, nutrition, sports science and so on move on so quickly.

The truth about all such arguments is that it is all very subjective. Everyone gauges who is the best by very personal criteria. Some do it in black and white terms – he/she is the most successful in terms of records, victories etc therefore they are clearly the greatest, while others do it in terms of natural talent and ability or how hard they have worked to get to the top. Some do it purely based on personality or how he/she conducted themselves and what they have done to promote/raise the profile of their particular sport.

It is a debate that has raged for decades and shows no sign of letting up anytime soon. It’s certainly an interesting topic of discussion that is for sure.

Women’s Sports Progress in the Middle East

Women in the Middle East and Sport are not things that you would normally suggest are inextricably linked but perhaps things are beginning to change in this part of the world?

Females across the globe encounter many boundaries in terms of their access to sport but is there a region that has more cultural and social obstacles that must be hurdled?

There is still a long way to go as these examples will show.

As recently as February 2014, four members of the Iranian women’s national football team were found to actually be men. Even more incredibly, these four individuals will be allowed to re-join the side once they have had their sex change operations. Despite the fact that homosexuality and sex before marriage are illegal in the Islamic state. Random testing now regularly occurs at clubs and subsequently seven other players have been banned.

Iran’s deputy minister for sport has only just overturned a long-standing stadium ban on women attending sporting events nevermind actually participating in the action on the field of play. This issue was brought to the attention of the international media when a woman was jailed for five months in Tehran for the heinous crime of attempting to attend a volleyball match, worse still it was a men’s game.

So what is being done to combat these roadblocks? Well, the governments in the region are concerned about the rising obesity and diabetes rates, with the figures relating to females particularly alarming. Introducing physical education into the compulsory part of the curriculum is seen as a means of tackling this worrying trend.

Football is leading the way in the advancement of women’s sport in the Middle East. The amount of sport, especially football that is shown on television has definitely increased interest and awareness. The West Asian Football Federation Championship sometimes known simply as the WAFF Championship, that was introduced to women’s football in 2005 is seen as a tremendous step forward. Qatar, Syria, Palestine, UAE, Bahrain, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Syria have all competed, which given the other difficulties these nations have had/currently face this makes it all the more remarkable.

Women’s basketball teams from the Middle East have sporadically competed in the FIBA Asia Championship but participation has been on an upward curve. The contentious issue of female player’s wearing a hijab while playing continues to be problematic and prohibitive. Football’s governing body FIFA, overturning a ban on the hijab in 2012 is a step in the right direction but other sporting association’s not following suit is less than helpful.

The wealthy Middle Eastern elite are seeing the benefits of girls playing sports as they become more exposed to the rest of the world through travelling and residing in other countries. Numerous university studies have illustrated that women who regularly participate in sport generally are more successful at school and then at work. They also exhibit greater self-confidence and levels of competiveness. Of course, there is traditional resistance to what is seen as the infiltration of Western ideas and ideals into Middle Eastern culture. But you only have to look at the success of multinational fast food chains such as McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut and Burger King in the region to see that it is very possible.

It seems only a matter of time before women and men compete on a level playing field in the Middle East. External pressure, globalisation and a young population are all contributing factors to this seemingly unstoppable progression. With the 2022 World Cup in Qatar fast approaching this area of the world will want to be seen as diverse, open minded, welcoming and tolerant.

http://www.myfootballfacts.com/Article_Womens_Sports_Progress.html