It was Howard Cosell, the legendary US sportscaster, who once stated: “Sports is human life in microcosm.”
It’s a quote that could easily be the inspiration for Vice World of Sports – a deep dive into sport culture around the world.
Host Selema Masekela and his team of reporters travel the globe – from Ghana to Cuba, Kenya, the United States and Serbia to find sports stories that not only arouse the competitive spirit but also give a fascinating insight into the human condition.
And these aren’t stories you will find on the back page of your newspaper or profiled in any glossy sports mag. These stories are way off the beat. But they’re stories you won’t be able to resist.
Take the boys of Bukom, for instance. Bukom is a tiny slum village on the coast of Ghana that has the reputation for producing more world champion fighters per capita than anywhere else in the world. Jeff Fenech’s nemesis Azumah Nelson, considered the greatest African boxer of all-time, was from Bukom. As were fighters such as Ike Quartey, Kwame Asante and ex-IBF welterweight champ, Joshua Clottey. How they become great boxers defies belief.
There are stories of Native American basketball rivalries, Cuban baseball players willing to risk their lives to play in the majors and New Zealand long-distance runners who embed themselves in the Kenyan town of Iten to learn the art of long-distance running.
There’s also the most vicious conflict in all sport – Serbia’s Eternal Derby – where every year a soccer match between Red Star and Partizan rips the city of Belgrade apart with displays of ultra-fan violence. Where any fancy footwork is overshadowed by 100,000 fans going absolutely ballistic. “In our preparations for the match,” says one fan. “We function like an army.”
Another incredible story comes from Uganda where a sophisticated soccer league has been set up in the country’s overcrowded maximum-security prison to help with rehabilitating inmates.
Within these walls is a system that challenges every conventional belief of what it means to be incarcerated. And it looks to be working. The chance of a prisoner from the American system reoffending is twice as great as in Uganda, where the inmates have formed their own constitution, made their own rules they must abide by. It goes for the matches, too. “Football is a game full of rules and regulations,” says one of the inmates. “It’s a game that enters deep in the blood.”
Another fascinating slice of sport culture centres on an American college gridiron game - The Bayou Classic, also known as the ‘Black Super Bowl’. It occurs in New Orleans each November and pits Grambling State against Southern, both historically black universities. But what takes place in the game is nothing compared to what happens the night before the match and at halftime: The Battle of the Bands.
The on-field teams are not traditionally ranked very high. But their school bands – fuelled by the city’s famous second line drumming – are considered the best in the world. Turns out, the battle of the bands is the big game.
Discover the true passions of the world through Vice World of Sports streaming on SBS On Demand: