This morning whilst conducting a random search I came before the following from an article in The India Express on the 24th August 2016 it read “Olympic athletes will never come from the education-driven middle class. That is not an indictment but merely a statement of fact and of priorities. The athletes will come from places where the downside to failure is relatively small but the upside for success is huge. In middle class families, where education is the key to a decent future, there will never be enough time for sport. For recreational sport maybe, and that is not to be trifled with to improve the quality and approach to life, but not for competitive, world class sport.”
At a time when we see our national squads beaten heavily in football, our runners lagging at the foot of qualification tables, our basketball teams at times competing to be above the bottom ranked in groups, it usually comes with a cheer when teams achieve some sort of result.
Hockey recently was promoted after a resounding performance in the Europeans. Our basketball teams achieved medals in their levels, and we saw one of our athletes do a personal best in the European competitions beating our national record, you begin to wonder what level can a Gibraltarians actually reach?
Many a time Gibraltarians have used the excuse we do well for the size of our territory. Yet time and again we see world class performers emerge from little towns in the wilderness achieving world champions performances, but not Gibraltarians. So the excuse begins to sound hollow.
It is when you read comments such as those written in The India Express in which you compare like for likes you realise that there is a fundamental truth in such comments.
Importantly, even with the best of infrastructures, and the best of associations, whilst sportspeople are not pushed further and see sport as more than recreation they will be content with their local successes only.
Hunger for the sport and for achievement has not become a necessity in Gibraltar. Indeed, like the article says, the mere fact Gibraltar is a higher middle class community means that there is no huge benefit that can be gained from being a top sports person unless you are exceptionally good and reach the highest levels.
The media itself, and I should know as I’m one of the very ones who can be said is to blame, have given high praise to what in other countries would be considered mediocre. Achieving a personal best and beating a national record is not necessarily a headline news. Not coming last is not something to brag about either, but we do in our own way because in many ways Gibraltar has become content with such lower achievement levels.
Once upon a time, not too long ago someone once mentioned that the 11 second barrier for the 100m would not be broken in Gibraltar as it was a step too far. Not only was it broken but it is continuously being challenged to be bettered by some of our younger athletes. They should nevertheless not be satisfied with their achievements and they have already proven that it is not the 11 second barrier that needs to be broken but the ten second barrier they should be aiming at.
Similarly our footballers should be aiming not at a league two or even league one, club as their height in football achievement. They should be aiming at winning European qualification matches and reaching group stages, they should be aiming at reaching at the very least the Championship division levels or the Segunda A. What’s more is they should be aiming to achieve better wages through football than they can get through other employment if their love for football is such that it is more than their desire for a just a normal stable life.
Indeed there is a lack of infrastructure which will provide any such provisions at present.
This is not to say that successes locally at sport are not to be praised. However, when the question arises on whether Gibraltarians can be world class performers the answer simply seems to be yes if they want to be.