To you, football: till death do us apart.

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People enjoy the finale of the World Cup match at a restaurant in Greenlake. (Photo: Labisha Uprety)

I spent the first 15 minutes of the finale of the World Cup trotting up hills to find a place to squeeze myself in and watch the match a midst curses and whoops.

The community center?
‘I’m sorry, miss, but we’re overcrowded’.

That German restaurant i ‘hiked’ to?
Screams. Wonderful swearing. But a wall of people smelling of spit and Kostritzer lager. I could barely put my face inside when my glasses began sliding off my face due to sweat.

So  the Germans were happy that Germany was winning. Okay I get that.
But why did a teenager in Nepal commit suicide when Brazil lost?

This question is puzzling for a number of reasons. One: Nepal is not a football-worshiping nation as such. Yes, we do like football. And yes, we do have our favorite teams. And yes, the school-or work- is a sea of the winning jersey the next day. But to kill oneself over a game?

Sharmila Maharjan of National Institute of Psychology, Nepal, believes that instances like these could occur when a person overlaps  ‘identification’ with ‘attachment’- in this case,  football being the central cause. Teenagers are often unable to distinguish between the two. Identification apparently involves the understanding that the object is separate from your ego or identity but attachment involves blurring lines between the perceived object of interest and oneself.
There were also mentions of spats between the girl and her friends after the match in news circulated worldwide.
‘The double hurt of loss and further humiliation are sometimes factors enough for people to take drastic measures’, she concludes.

This brings to memory another incredibly fulled World Cup event to mind; the 1950 match between Brazil and Uruguay that resulted in humiliating defeat for Brazil and a number of distraught fans ending their lives.

Brazil v Uruguay 1950
The 1950 match between Brazil and Uruguay. (Photo: The Guardian)

One might also pause to question how quickly the media has connected the girl’s suicide to the game. No suicide notes have been found and the body has only just been given in for autopsy. Investigators however, are confidently asserting that she took her life after an argument about the match resulted in a fallout with her friends. The media is feeding on this dangerously little information; disseminating it by the pound, constantly pumping more air into the already-inflated tire that is the World Cup.

Lauren Davis of Forefront, innovations in suicide prevention, believes that journalists should be trained to report on issues as sensitive as suicide before it goes out into the world. Sensationalizing  news to make news has long been a ruthless tradition.
‘Responsible reporting on suicide and the use of pro-recovery language can help to de-stigmatize mental illness and let the public know that prevention works, treatment is effective, and recovery happens.’

It is gruesome how something as grave as death would add more ‘glory’ in our perception of things, something that is literally worth dying for. Objectivity may be debated for centuries to come but we, as journalists, at least need to learn how to handle cut glass with care.

1 Comment

  1. I agree with you about the strange link that sometimes occurs between sports and self image. I don’t understand it either but it exists as does the primal competitiveness. A thought provoking article!

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1 Comment

  1. I agree with you about the strange link that sometimes occurs between sports and self image. I don’t understand it either but it exists as does the primal competitiveness. A thought provoking article!

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