Of Blood and Flesh

by on 週一, 22 十月 2007 評論
"Mens sana in corpore sano"
“A healthy mind in a healthy body”

This quotation of Juvenal emphasizes the importance of health and, most of all the balance between mind and body. That’s also why, in the continuation of a tradition inherited from the ancient Greeks, sport still occupies a great place in education and is valued as the best way to keep a healthy body.

Nevertheless, after watching my first rugby match for the World Cup, which takes place in France this year, I am not sure that sport is only a matter of health. Indeed, I was struck by the ‘violence’ and the obvious hardships the rugby players have to endure. Rugby may not be as bestial as boxing but when the camera come close to the faces and the scrums, you can see blood, sweat, scars, bandages, tired looks and saliva. There is no doubt that those sculpted bodies are roughly handled, that their stamina is tested. Some of you might know that the French rugby team is also famous for posing in an annual calendar which celebrates them as the “Gods of the Stadium” in reference to the Athletes of the Olympics in Greece. The reference is not only about their performance on the field, the photos of the calendar also follow the tradition of the classical representations of athletes’ nude and very fit bodies.

Sport is also one of the best ways to express one’s existence as a body. Florence Ayisi, a Cameroonian woman director, draws an indirect link between the ways sport can liberate bodies and free minds. Her documentary film, Zanzibar Soccer Queens, is about a female soccer team in Zanzibar called the ‘Women fighters.’ As 90% of the population in Zanzibar is Muslim, those women are not really encouraged to devote themselves to their soccer passion. Most of them, once married, are forbidden to play again. For example. the director interviews a female Koran school teacher who criticizes women soccer players for they show too much ‘nudity’ by wearing short-pants and short sleeves. In some kind of way, the identity of these womens’ bodies is denied, here mostly for religious purposes. The film’s portrait of Amina, a former soccer player, is also very eloquent on this subject: after getting married, her husband forbade her to play soccer as she would just be a housewife and stay at home. In that perspective, Amina’s body confined to the secret of the house is opposed to the soccer players’ ones exercising, running, sweating on the field.

Some love their body, sometimes in a very narcissistic way that can be excessive. Others hate their body, as it might not always comply with one’s wishes, and even might be seen as a handicap. But we should still cherish our body, no matter the pain and the disgust it can sometimes provoke, for it is not only the receptacle of our mind but also our most tangible link to humanity.

Zanzibar Soccer Queens website


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