Monday, August 25, 2008

What do you mean, you can never go home?

The Olympics is over, but not the sports news.

There's a wide range of answers to what it means for a traveling athletic team to achieve success on the road. The United States men's gymnastics team worked their hearts out and were happy (just look at them) to get silver, while the women's team looked stricken as they realized they'd receive the same medal. Of course, some folks think it's a victory just putting on the best game you've got; others say it's top prize or bust.

Than, there's Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone offers the world a new definition of a successful athletic road trip as it celebrates the unusual occurrence that its traveling team actually returned. It's no joke, it's right here.

What might be depressing is that the team's sponsor, an "honorary consul" of Sweden, had to personally vouch to Swedish authorities for the players' safe return home before a ban on issuing visas to Sierra Leonean athletes would be waived. One imagines the players being herded through cattle-style gates as they are deported, still wearing their cleats, following the final game. However, a little civic pride is evidenced in these words by the team's top scorer:
I didn't want to disappear, I want to come back here because I like my country and I want to play for the national team.
via Issa Koroma, 13, who lost both his parents in Sierra Leone's civil war.
Maybe if enough victorious athletes return to Sierra Leone, the country can become known for something more ennobling than supplying the world with visa skips.

Congratulations on getting to the tournament, congratulations on getting the ball in the net, and congratulations on getting home!

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