The United Kingdom has a new champion! Formula 1 racing driver Lewis Hamilton was crowned world champion at the end of yesterday’s end of season Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi. British newspapers are full of images of a jubilant Hamilton and headlines such as the “Start of something special” and “Best day of my life”. Perhaps the fact that he beat his team-mate and long-term rival, German driver Nico Rosberg, makes the victory seem even sweeter. For the UK, our rivalry with our European friends always adds an extra twist to the competition.
So what if journalists play down the fact that Hamilton and Rosberg both drive for a German team? Painful memories of England’s exit from this summer’s FIFA World Cup, and Germany’s victory, are long forgotten. Glory is in the moment and the victor enjoys the adulation. Who cares if Germany won the World Cup, we have Lewis!
Well, lots of people care, and not just 80 million justifiably proud Germans (congratulations mein Freund), but that was last summer.
Today, I feel Kuwait’s pain. Losing 0-5 to Oman last week appears to have caused a national shock. As a Briton, I’m not unused to sporting disappointment. Don’t misunderstand me, I am no football expert. I enjoy a kick-around with the kids, but that’s it for soccer. However, I learned a few years ago that it’s very difficult for a British Ambassador not to take an interest in sport, and football in particular. This initially posed a problem for me. Apart from my rather limited ball-skills, I had grown up playing rugby, hockey, and athletics. I have always enjoyed watching the World Cup and European Championships, but not much more. Suddenly I needed a “team”. Naturally, I chose Liverpool. I was born there. I also remember Kevin Keegan, John Toshack and Kenny Dalglish. So I have become a Liverpool supporter. At least I’ll never walk alone.
Except, here in Kuwait, I keep meeting Arsenal or Chelsea fans. Why is that? Where are all the Liverpool supporters? I did meet a Tottenham supporter the other day. And of course, I know about Kuwaiti links with Nottingham Forest and Ebbsfleet United. I’ve even met some enthusiastic Kuwaitis who fly to the UK to watch the occasional match before heading home again the following day. That’s more dedicated than I’d ever be, but it’s great to know that football is so popular here. It has also been good to learn about other Kuwaiti sporting interests – and successes: the shooting team and other medallists at the Asian Games in South Korea this autumn; the early morning cycling clubs out on the Gulf road every Friday; the numerous youth football clubs playing across the city; and the Triathlon that took place last month. People taking part in these activities may have been disappointed too by last week’s score. But they keep training, enjoy the competition, and play for the fun and thrill of the game.
People always rediscover their love of sport. Anyone and everyone can have a go. It brings people together. What do you think of sport in Kuwait today? Can more be done to help people enjoy the benefits it brings, and the joy it can give?