The recent news that the world s most celebrated boy king, Tutankhamen, used to play football only adds to the long list of evidence that our old, old forefathers not only invented soccer but had a ball conceiving many other sports.
That the ancient Egyptians were first in sports is well-documented. Because the Pharaohs were kind enough to provide detailed references of their sporting prowess on the walls of temples all over Egypt, there is no worry that the historical fact of being first in sport will ever be contested.
But what is cause for concern is our relative paucity of achievements in world sports today. In the two biggest sports championships in the world, we are at a loss. Just two appearances in the World Cup and just 24 Olympic medals over all. What gives? How can a country which is the great, great granddaddy of so many sports be so poor against its offspring?
Of similar bewilderment is our abysmal failure to host a major championship. If we can’t measure up to the international standards of world sport, you’d think we could at least play host to world-class athletes. But our attempt to stage the 2010 World Cup ended in a colossal embarrassment while a bid for the 2004 Olympics never got past the runway.
Regarding both tournaments, we didn’t have what was required of us. We didn’t have enough stadiums, we could not adapt existing ones, we had and still have huge transportation problems, disorganized was our middle name, and everyone knew that we are masters at looking like we’re working hard when in fact we’re hardly working.
The experts were not at all sure whether we could get all the building work done in time. They weren’t sure we could afford holding a championship. We could not show any guarantees that we could meet any shortfall nor were all our financial guarantees in place.
We certainly did not have enough experience to support staging big sporting events to handle something like the World Cup or Olympics. We could not make sure the athletes, spectators and VIP s wouldn’t spend most of their time sitting in traffic jams. Nor could we seriously persuade that our telecommunications system could cope with the huge demands of an Olympics or World Cup.
We lost the bids because we didn’t have what the experts wanted. Why, then, didn’t we turn to our strong suit and show the experts what we had. It might have helped.
We invented football and Tut wasn’t the only player. Tomb scenes show groups of girls kicking a ball and passing it to each other. By the way, we invented the ball. Many balls have been found in excavations, stuffed with palm or papyrus fiber, or straw, and covered in sewn leather or cloth.
After that the ball kept on rolling. We invented handball, field hockey, rowing and fishing. For entertainment and keeping slim we started gymnastics, acrobatics, hunting, swimming, and the high jump. For building the bodies of kings and warriors as well as strengthening the muscles of youth preparing to be priests or military officers we premiered boxing, wrestling, equestrianship, marathons and archery.
This sort of continuity of lifestyle should have played well with Egypt s bid to host the Olympics or World Cup. Greece played the same card to fantastic result by succeeding in its bid to host the 2004 Games.
We didn’t. We neither played up our history nor could we persuade our questioners about our present.
We were asked whether it would be sunny at the time of a World Cup or Olympics, both of which are played in summer. It was probably the only question we answer with an emphatic ‘yes’.