It would be wrong to say that I’ve only thought about sport in the past few months, but it’s been on my mind more than ever. I grew up watching snow-based sport on TV during the long, cold, dark winter. Skiing, skijumping, biathlon, Nordic Combined: the soothing swish of carbon on a frozen surface was a distraction from the short days outside, and the white of the snow brought some light to our – often snowless – Vienna streets. I was less aware of the patriotism, the flag-waving, what it means for an athlete to be declared a national hero.
These days, when I think of sport I think of politics. I think about Mesut Özil, who kicked off a debate about politics, race and football in Germany, about Colin Kaepernick, or about Nicola Werdenigg, a former skier who spoke up about the endemic abuse in Austria’s skiing academies in the 1970s.
Sport is emblematic of what goes on in society as a whole. In this issue of PEN Transmissions, we’ve looked at it as a method of inclusion – and exclusion. As a method of belonging as well as of extreme alienation. As a site for campaigning and protest, for enforcing discipline and disrupting it. We looked at sport as a part of our collective identity.
Jashvina Shah writes about being a brown woman in a sport structured around white men: ice hockey in North America. Kylie Maslen tells us about how baseball and Australian Rules Football helped her through a particularly difficult time in her life. Sayed Alwadaei reminds us why professional sport (and particularly the Formula One) is a site of protest in Bahrain. And Han Yujoo, in a translation by Janet Hong, tells us what it’s like to have an athlete as a mother: not easy.
I hope you enjoy this issue of PEN Transmissions – even if, especially if, you dislike sport. I’ll leave you with words of wisdom by a young hockey player who shall remain unnamed. If you think about the past then it’s going to haunt you in the future. You’ve just got to think about the present and go out there and play hockey.
– Theodora Danek, Writers in Translation Programme Manager, English PEN