When Sport Helps Players Deal with Grief
The healing power of sport has drawn the likes of cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli, American tennis legend Peter Sampras, golf star Ben Crenshaw, Thailand’s snooker ace James Watanna and many others to overcome personal tragedy and turn up at crucial sporting contests.
We witnessed French footballer Lassana Diarra turning up for the national team for a friendly against England just days after knowing of his cousin's death in the Paris terror attacks. Former Arsenal, Chelsea and Real Madrid midfielder Diarra was understandably shaken after learning the news and his coach Didier Deschamps said he was determined to stay on and continue playing. He received a standing ovation from both sets of fans at Wembley on his 57th minute substitute appearance.
Indian Super League franchise Mumbai City FC midfielder Selim Benachour too joined the ranks recently by flying back from his father’s funeral in Tunisia to play for his team. Selim played as a late second half substitute against FC Goa on a Sunday, a day after he became aware that his father had passed away, missed a game against North East United FC because he flew to Tunisia to oversee the burial but returned to play as a second half substitute – and score the team’s lone goal – against Atletico de Kolkata.
World cricket’s most prolific batsmen Sachin Tendulkar returned to England after his father prof Ramesh Tendulkar’s funeral during the 1999 World Cup. He missed India’s match against Zimbabwe in Leicester but flew back to script one of the most emotional hundreds against Kenya in Bristol.
India’s current Test cricket captain Virat Kohli was but 18 years old when he showcased his strong character by resuming his innings for Delhi in a Ranji Trophy match against Karnataka in December 2006 despite his father, Prem Kohli’s death. He was batting on 40 overnight and knew he had to bat to bail his team out of trouble against the formidable Karnataka team. He made 90 before falling to a debatable leg before decision and then joined his family for his father’s last rites.
American tennis legend Pete Sampras broke down and cried before the fifth set of his 1995 Australian Open quarterfinal against Jim Courier. The news that his coach Tim Gullikson had been diagnosed with brain cancer hit Sampras hard after he had battled to level the match at two-sets each. Despite the tears flowing down his cheeks, he pulled himself together to win the match.
Thailand snooker ace James Wattana was playing Tony Drago in the British Open in Derby in 1992 when he was told that his father had been shot in a gang war back home. He would have forfeit his match and rush to the airport to take the earliest flight home. He decided to play on. And came up with a break of 147 – the highest that can be made in snooker – without flinching. He created the magical break in just over six minutes.
A day after he served as a pallbearer for Harvey Penick, his longtime coach and noted golf author, Ben Crenshaw won the Augusta Masters golf in April 1995. Crenshaw won the Green Jacket for the second time in his career, playing with what he called a 15th club in his bag and edging out Davis Love III by a stroke to become the second-oldest Masters champion ever.
Canadian national figure skating champion Joannie Rochette's mother died of a heart attack barely a couple of days before the start of her competition at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Rochette competed in her mother's honour and set a personal best in win the bronze medal. She was later awarded the inaugural Terry Fox Award for her inspiring performance in the face of adversity.
We witnessed French footballer Lassana Diarra turning up for the national team for a friendly against England just days after knowing of his cousin's death in the Paris terror attacks.