Wednesday, 2 July 2008

The Real and Unreal World of Wimbledon: Reflections of an Umpire

BBC Radio Scotland
Thought for the Day on Thursday 3rd July 2008
Amanullah De Sondy

Good morning from the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, where I’ve been an umpire for the last ten days. Perched in the BBC cabin at the media centre on the grounds of the All England Club it strikes me that this could be the most wonderful experience of my life. I must confess, that I only got involved in officiating because I could escape from the stress and rigorous thinking of theology. All I have to do here is look at a line, it’s either ‘in’ or ‘out’. If only theology was as simple as this!

Janko Tipserevic, the 40th seed from Serbia who downed the 6th seed American Andy Roddick here, stated in an interview that he had stopped reading what he called ‘depressing’ books as he felt it was affecting his tennis. But to what extent is it possible to isolate ourselves from the real world in our sporting or umpiring endeavours? Maybe maintaining an awareness of others is our jolt back to reality, a very Islamic concept for me. In similar fashion tennis players are expected to uphold the correct tennis etiquette on court, even though I’ve seen many a tennis rackets being smashed and heard many words of obscenity being uttered in the last ten days.

Maybe the best example of bringing the realities of life and the unreal world of tennis together, came to Wimbledon in the form of the wildcard Chinese ladies player Zheng Jie, who beat the number one seed Ana Ivanovich. Zheng Jie is from the same Sichuan region in China which was struck by the devastating earthquake in May this year. She has stated that she will donate all her earnings to the region in order to highlight the plight of those who have lost their homes. The sentiments of Zheng Jie are a refreshing reminder that professional tennis players can still have their feet firmly in the real world. As the championships come to an end it seems to me that there is really no such thing as an out of this world experience because when the trophies are handed out and the tv cameras leave what remains are the responsibilities and relationships that after all have made us who we are.

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