The publication of a brand new John Grisham novel is all the time an thrilling occasion. His most up-to-date novel, revealed earlier this yr, just isn’t an exception. The novel, “Sooley,” tells the story of a 17-year-old South Sudanese boy, Samuel Sooleymon, who is chosen to play in a basketball event in the USA.
Whereas in the USA, his father and sister are slaughtered by rebels preventing a vicious civil battle towards authorities forces in South Sudan. His mom and brothers attain a camp for displaced individuals in Uganda; they’re comparatively protected however destitute. After the event, Sooley is obtainable a scholarship to check at an American school, the place he turns into a well-known basketball participant, a legend of the sport.
The e-book is a wonderful instance of how storytelling can maintain a reader enthralled till the final web page. In his novel, Grisham supplies a lot fascinating data—though not all the time traditionally correct—concerning the civil battle which began quickly after South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan on Jul. 9, 2011, following a referendum that resulted in a staggering 98.83 % of individuals voting for independence.
The civil battle, which lasted till 2018, resulted in roughly 400,000 victims, with greater than 4 million individuals displaced, dwelling in refugee camps in neighbouring international locations, primarily Uganda. Presently, the nation is ruled by a coalition of the principle opposing events.
The theme permeating Grisham’s e-book is the capability of sport to carry individuals collectively and heal conflicts inside a nation and between nations. This theme is a well timed reminder of the doubtless highly effective function that sport may play throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to supply individuals with a brief sense of aid and pleasure.
Apparently, South Sudan has the very best variety of tall individuals on the planet, therefore, the curiosity in basketball which, along with wrestling, is a conventional sport of this younger, however traumatised, nation.
As skillfully illustrated in Grisham’s e-book, basketball brings pleasure to 1000’s of people that proudly have fun the exploits of their South Sudanese gamers and countrymen in the USA. Success at basketball thus contributes to the shaping of a South Sudanese nationwide identification and leads to extended durations of peace and stability on this troubled land.
Nonetheless, it’s applicable to query the validity of Grisham’s theme—that sport is a unifying pressure in society—now that within the subsequent three months, the world is internet hosting main sporting occasions, together with the Tour de France, Wimbledon, the European Soccer Championship and, after all, the Olympic Video games scheduled to be held in Tokyo, Japan, within the interval of Friday, Jul. 23 to Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021.
After all, Grisham’s theme just isn’t novel. It’s believed that even within the Historical Olympic Video games, held in Olympia between the eighth and 4th Centuries BC, all conflicts between the taking part city-states had been suspended throughout the Video games.
The target of selling peace and worldwide friendship was additionally within the thoughts of Baron Pierre de Coubertin when he organized an Olympic Committee to carry the primary Olympic Video games of the trendy period in Greece in 1896.
On this context, Wilfried Lemke has argued that “sport is essentially the most unifying and galvanizing growth and peace instrument on the planet. No different social exercise brings individuals collectively in such nice numbers and with a lot ardour and pleasure … No matter age, gender or ethnicity, sport is loved by all; its attain is unrivalled. Extra importantly, although, sport promotes common values that transcend language and tradition.”
Confirming Lemke’s assertion, Paul Feinstein, in a lately revealed article, lists 30 examples of sporting exploits that introduced the world collectively, highlighting the triumphs of athletes, lionising tolerance, endurance, and persistence, and resulting in glory for particular person athletes and nationwide satisfaction within the nations the place the athletes come from.
Nevertheless, this sugar-coated view of the function of sports activities in society might merely be the expression of an expectation somewhat than a press release of reality. Certainly, sport has typically additionally been used to foment strife amongst nations and to incite hatred.
Not occasionally, sport functioned as a political weapon to punish the host of the Olympic Video games or antagonise taking part international locations.
For instance, the Melbourne Olympics of 1956 had been boycotted by the Individuals’s Republic of China as a result of it objected to the participation of athletes from Taiwan. South Africa and Rhodesia had been banned from taking part within the 1972 and 1976 Video games due to their segregationist insurance policies.
America boycotted the Moscow Video games of 1980 to protest the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, and the Soviet Union retaliated by refusing to take part within the Los Angeles Video games in 1984 due to hostile anti-Soviet propaganda. Moreover, the Video games have been tarnished by confirmed claims of doping by athletes, utilizing performing-enhancing medication, intercourse discrimination (international locations solely sending male groups), and dishonest.
However, as Grisham optimistically signifies, basketball has introduced the South Sudanese individuals collectively and has contributed to a fragile peace between the 2 main warring factions in that nation.
He additionally correctly confirms that sport can equally be manipulated by large enterprise pursuits to destroy the way forward for promising sportspeople who might not be capable of deal with the celebrity that comes with success. Certainly, it was fame, inexperience, and gullibility that proved to be the downfall of Grisham’s protagonist, Sooley, who couldn’t resist the temptations of fame and notoriety following his choice to play within the Nationwide Basketball Affiliation’s league.
A studying of Sooley reminds us that sporting prowess is a present that needs to be nurtured, protected, and honed for constructive functions. However, utilizing the phrases of U.S. Decide Discovered Hand, sport must be complemented by a spirit of liberty that “seeks to grasp the thoughts of different women and men” and “weighs their pursuits alongside its personal with out bias.”
Gabriël A. Moens AM is an emeritus professor of legislation at The College of Queensland. He served as dean of legislation and professional vice-chancellor at Murdoch College and has taught extensively throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. He’s the creator of brief tales and a novel on the origins of the COVID-19 virus, “A Twisted Alternative” (Boolarong Press, 2020).
Views expressed on this article are the opinions of the creator and don’t essentially mirror the views of The Epoch Occasions.