By Farooq Sulehria
LAHORE — Cricket is a big craze throughout the Indian subcontinent. Though Pakistan's loss in this year's World Cup left the millions of Pakistanis in tears, for the multinationals it was a windfall.
According to an Agence France Press report, "The Indian market — the country has a population of one billion — has ensured that this is the most profitable of the seven world cups held so far, with a projected surplus of US$48 million. The International Cricket Council's (ICC) share will be $27.2 million, an increase of $8 million from the 1996 tournament held in the Indian subcontinent."
"World Cup boosts TV sales in Pakistan", said one headline published at the conclusion of World Cup. "The 1999 World Cup, which concluded last Sunday at Lord's in England, has boosted the sale of colour TV sets in Pakistan. According to market estimates, more than 100,000 colour sets ... were sold during the last six months.
"Besides the World Cup craze, the manufacturers and distributors are hopeful that this upward trend in sales will continue as they have been planning to continue their campaigns throughout the year. A dealer from LG products said that within one year, 'we shall capture about 30% share in Karachi' ... Losses incurred by certain multinationals during the last three years, are expected to be made up in 1999."
This is just the tip of the iceberg. No estimate is available of how much money was made across the world by the multinationals in the name of cricket.
Add to this the dirty involvement of bookies. In Pakistan, betting is so commonplace that every city tea stall has a TV showing cricket matches. Half the viewers watching the match are involved in betting. The Pakistan team, as well as the national cricket board, are facing charges of betting on match results.
This shows how capitalism has destroyed the spirit of sport.
Even though cricket is the most popular game in Pakistan, a big majority of the population has no opportunity to play. In the big cities, children and young people must play cricket on the sides of busy roads, risking their lives.
If the multinationals' interest in the sport was more than just making money from it, they would provide playing grounds and other sporting facilities for the youth.
Only with the victory of socialism can sport be played in its true spirit so that workers will be able to play it for the benefit of themselves, not for the profits of big business and the bookies. At last, healthy competition will decide the matches.
[Farooq Sulehria is a leader of the Labour Party Pakistan.]