Today’s Editorial for July 16: Hats off to rugby team

Sport has always been a source of national pride – and even propaganda.

Every nation that wins the football World Cup or an Olympic team medal derives enormous kudos from it. That’s why the United States is sending the likes of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James to the Beijing Olympics; nothing less than gold is good enough.

Adolf Hitler unsuccessfully used sport to inspire his Nazi philosophy at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and Fidel Castro has for half a century ensured that sporting excellence gives Cuba a level of respectability internationally and irritates the neighbouring Americans.

The East Germans cheated their way to world records and gold medals in the 1970s with performance-enhancing drugs simply because winning meant enormous political gain.

For a country of only 11 million, Cuba punches way above its weight, sports wise.

So too does the Cayman Islands.

The Under-19 rugby team has just shown that by becoming Caribbean Champions and getting through to the next round of the World Cup.

This is a tremendous achievement for a country so small. Cayman U-19s are now in the top 24 in the world for their age group.

For a group of islands so tiny this is truly an amazing accomplishment. Throw in the fact that it is only four years since Hurricane Ivan decimated the sports programme; it makes it even more impressive.

Quite rightly, sport is always the last sector of a society to recover from the devastation of a storm.

The rugby club on South Sound was hit worse than many any other sports facilities, but club president Derek Haines and technical director Richard Adams dusted themselves down and rebuilt the programme rapidly. Their perseverance paid enormous dividends. The senior men and women’s teams are coming along nicely too.

When Cayman captain Daniel McGrath and his team mates lifted that trophy after beating Mexico in Barbados on Sunday, it had a ripple effect not just in rugby circles but also sporting ones too. Cayman must have a respectable sports programme, is the perception. This can only be good for the Islands’ economy generally and sports tourism specifically in the future.

Sports Minister Alden McLaughlin got it right when he said that rugby is definitely a mainstream sport and not an elitist one, which is why he has wholeheartedly supported it despite immense criticism.

The rugby success should inspire everyone, not just in other sports but also anyone looking to achieve something that seems unattainable. Sport has always been a microcosm of life. The Olympic mantra that it’s not about winning but the taking part is partially true. Winning does help; a lot.

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