Sporting sadness

I will start by admitting that I am no fan of sport, let alone Tennis. I haven’t followed Wimbledon since the ‘tie break’ rule came in, and we lost the thrilling games of yesteryear. Plus ‘Baseline’ tennis also bored me to tears, and I yearned for a return to those ‘serve and volley’ days.

But my post today is about sadness. Sad at the desperation this country feels to achieve some acclaim, in modern sport. So much fuss today, about Johanna Konta. She is ‘representing’ Britain, and has achieved a breakthrough, to the Wimbledon semi-finals. Her success has been lauded as the first time a British woman has been through to this round, since Virginia Wade, in the equivalent of the tennis ‘stone age’.

How proud we are. How effusive are the commentators, and the excited news reports. Flags are flying high, British tennis is on the ascendant. Although she may be minced up by one of the Williams sisters, those automatons of modern tennis, it doesn’t matter. She is through, and we are almost ecstatic as a nation.

But hang on. Something is wrong here, surely?

This young lady was born of Hungarian parents, in Australia. She had an Australian passport, and played tennis for that country. Fair enough, she was born there. Johanna Konta, Australian tennis star. That sounds good. Well done to her. Australia has a great tennis heritage, and she should do well, given the right chances. But then her parents moved to the UK. Johanna went to Spain, to improve her tennis skills. So, Johanna decided to become a British citizen, just five years ago, in 2012. She then appeared as a tennis player for Great Britain. No longer Hungarian by the nationality of her parents, or Australian by the nationality of her birth. Suddenly, she is British, and our great white hope in tennis.

So, am I proud? No, quite frankly, I am ashamed. Because she is good at a particular sport, she is accepted immediately, unlike so many others struggling for a British Passport. Give her nationality, forget her Australian (and Hungarian) roots. She is as English as me. Hooray! Remember Zola Budd? I do.

As far as I am concerned, this is simply unacceptable. Sporting prowess should not equal nationality.

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27 comments

  1. PJR

    I share your scepticism about the arbitrary way nationality is fast-tracked (cf sporting prowess, in my day at any rate, winning university places) and your distaste for nationalism. I was interested to hear John Humpheys picking up some of your points earlier in the week, and the abuse he got afterwards.
    At a normal time the debate might have less resonance but in the current zenophobic-when-it-suits-us climate, when European-born residents, often married to UK citizens and with children born here, who have been enhancing British life and paying full taxes for yers without representation at General Elections or in the EU Referendum, are sick with uncertainty about their futures, the hypocrisy about Konta is nauseating.
    I used to love watching Wimbledon – when it used to be pure sport and drama, not debased by tribalism (and when I could afford a TV license).
    Not a criticism of the great and beautiful Konta.
    I admire your patience clarifying your argument with commentators.

    Liked by 1 person

    • beetleypete

      Thanks, Pippa. Nice to see you here as always. I think the double-standards of journalists and commentators (and members of the public) is what enrages me the most. Supporting the refusal of the right of the wives of British citizens to travel from Pakistan, Thailand, or elsewhere to join their husbands. Yet applauding the inclusion of a tennis star who has only has five years of residency in the UK.
      Patience is not a natural virtue for me. But I do always like to be polite, when possible.
      My best wishes to you both, as always. Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ian Gibson Photography

    I find the notion of nationality very odd.

    Konta is British because she has decided to be and has been allowed to be. Being good at tennis may well have helped.

    You say she is as English as you are. She isn’t, though. There is no way anyone can become English. I’ve lived in England since I was about 20, so for 40 years nearly. I don’t fit into anyone’s definition of Englishness, and I never will, whatever I want and whatever I do.

    On the other hand, I am British, both by birth and ancestry for two or three generations. But I could become American, Spanish, Australian if I wanted to just by filling in the appropriate forms and having enough money.

    Don’t you think that nationality is just a matter of a line on a map? Born one side, then you are one of us, and not one of them. I prefer to segregate people by their by their beliefs, by their politics, or by their humanity rather than by where their mother happened to be when they were born.

    Liked by 1 person

    • beetleypete

      I am not actually a Nationalist at all, Ian. But I really resent the trend of allowing people to become something they are not, because it suits some sporting ambitions, but not for so many other reasons. Then clinging to that vestige of nationality, for some archaic patriotic pride, that I for one have never subscribed to. That’s all I am saying really.
      Cheers, Pete.

      Like

    • beetleypete

      Thanks for the link, Ian. I got angry about this tennis star, as I felt (and still do) that her ‘Britishness’ was all too convenient, and only based on her sporting attributes. I am not racist, as you know (Julie’s son knows Anthony Joshua well) but I think that if someone represents Britain, they should have some history with the country, not just five years. My argument is not actually with the people involved, rather a government that it suits to deport some people, but welcome others based on sporting talents. And it is certainly not based on race, as both Konta and Budd are white.
      Cheers mate, Pete.

      Like

      • Ian Gibson Photography

        I share your anger regarding letting the sporty and /or rich in, but deporting the poor, but the link made me think a bit more about nationality. I know that it is possible to change your nationality, and that some people are stateless. So i started to wonder if it was possible to choose to have no nationality, and what the consequences would be? Probably a bit like changing your name by deed poll to “I haven’t got one.” Then when the police ask you for your name….

        Liked by 1 person

  3. lobotero

    I agree with you……but the power that be has decided that sports are the way of things and we need them to survive……it is obscene the cash these people are paid…..sorry I digressed there….have a good evening……chuq

    Liked by 1 person

  4. toritto

    Boy we’re old! We remember Zola! Hey, when you’ve got to go to the Olympics and you can’t because South Africa was banned you become British! And you set the British world record! BTW, she lives in South Carolina now I think!

    Best.

    Liked by 2 people

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