“Stunning beaches on The Great Ocean Rd.. Gorgeous drive!!”
The above lines appeared on the micro blogging site twitter, on England cricketer Kevin Pietersen’s page, couple of hours before he was fined for speeding in Australia. Pietersen was driving a Lamborghini sports car.
Naturally, the incident made headlines. For Pietersen is a star player for his team and commands huge respect among cricket followers in the world, as his twitter posts are followed by more than hundred thousand fans. To top it all, not many would have forgotten the innings of 227 he played to down Australia, making his team earn a lead in the Ashes series.
For media, it was news worthy of a headline.
Cut to another incident.
25-member Nepali women football team left for Dhaka to participate in the SAFF Women´s Football Championship. Some notable TV channels ignored to cover the story, forget making it a headline. The news appeared in print and on online portals, sans fanfare.
It should be interesting here to mention that the team has a sizeable number, 9 players from the team that managed to secure the runners up position in the last edition of South Asian Games. Yet the hoopla was missing.
Was it because the participants were women? Feminists would love to believe that, for that could be one reason for them to picket some office, or maybe the constituent assembly.
For one thing, men’s participation in similar tournament draws a lot of attention. It begins with the announcement of the probables, followed by media analysis of the players, their past performance and fitness, and even goes to the extent of featuring them in celebrity events. We may not have reached the level of having a set of interviews and photo sessions for their hairdos a la’ David Beckham, but in past we’ve tried to emulate that, where the footballers have been the subject and participants at the ramp.
Nothing wrong with that, as long as football, or any other sport comes into limelight. When players become stars, more people follow the game, and with popularity comes in money, which further enriches the sport and those involved in it. Market mantra tells us that.
I’ve often been a part of talks, on the sidelines of sports event, where majority of our sport reporters say, “We need to make our players appear better than they are and create stars out of them.”
So what went wrong this time around? Hardly more than a couple of bylines were seen, covering the story.
Now, Nepali women’s football team has been grouped with Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Maldives at the SAFF championship. Having seen the past record, Nepali women should be able to make it to the next round, which is the semi-final. Anything under that could be considered an underachievement, for majority of the players are from departmental teams, which spend quite a lot of energy and resources – by Nepali standards – to keep the players fit.
That basically means that we have a real prospect in our hand. If Nepali eaves could keep their cool and focus on their skills, we could be a tough nut to crack for the regional power, India – whom we might meet for the title, that is, if everything went smooth on both the sides.
Was it also because the event was happening just after a bigger event – the Asiad – and everybody was taking a nap? Hardly looks so.
A few sport officials also revealed recently that the team would be sent to Bangladesh in a bus, because the venue was not too far from Jhapa, where the girls were camping. And here, we are talking about a national team, not a school team taking part in regional tournament in a neighbouring country. National team almost sneaking into the host country to participate in a South Asian championship… How do you beat that?
Pietersen gets a fine for a speeding car and makes headlines. The women’s football team, that was runners-up in championship of similar stature – is carrying national pride and gets inadequate attention.
The question is: Who’s watching the Big brother, the media?
(The article originally appeared in The Kathmandu Post, 11th December, 2010, in a weekly column of Yours Truly)