The first time I watched sport on television was during a summer holiday in Bengaluru, India. My paternal grandfather was an avid fan of cricket and field hockey, and would patiently explain the intricacies of both games to my six-year-old self. The cricket bug bit first and what followed was a lifelong love for the athleticism and excitement that came from watching sport, whether live or highlights.
My parents accommodated my obsession as long as it fit within their regulations about television time. I devoured information in newspapers and magazine articles but always noticed one thing – women’s sport was rarely covered.
During the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Karnam Malleswari won the first individual medal by an Indian female athlete – a bronze in weightlifting. Great news, but at that time I held aspirations of representing my country at the international level in swimming and didn’t even know the name of a single Indian female swimmer.
As I grew older, my passion with sport became a fierce anger regarding the highly limited coverage surrounding not just Indian women in sport, but women’s sport in general. It was always seen as a side-note and token exposure. Articles written about female athletes focused more on their personal lives and appearances rather than prowess and intelligent discussions about gameplay and tactics. How was a young girl supposed to be inspired to either become an athlete or even join the sport industry after this?
Somehow, my enthusiasm grew too big to contain. I knew that I wanted to work in sport but what I wanted to do was a different question. From journalism to athlete management, from public relations to digital marketing – I tried my hand at everything. However, after learning from interesting, experienced professionals and being responsible for projects that I could be proud of 20 years later, I still had not found my niche.
I decided to do a master’s degree but the question remained: how would I connect sport to international relations? My interest in sport is also focused on the gender topic – trying to understand why women’s sport is still underappreciated and treated as token participation, even in the 21st century.
Choosing the Graduate Institute wasn’t very difficult considering its location and its proximity to international sport organisations. Furthermore, the Institute prides itself on diverse areas of research and study, and what can be more diverse than sport through an international relations lens?
Coming here has allowed me to look beyond the professional perspectives with regards to sport, and understand, more profoundly, the many inequalities present in sport – from the gender pay gap to strict regulations surrounding expressing political opinions.
With the recent coverage and reach of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and someone like Megan Rapinoe (legendary as she is) inserting herself into international political news circles, my worlds collided, leading me to realise that you have to make the most out of the interests and opportunities that you are presented to make a change.
Keywords: master, international affairs