LET’S be real – we’re not the biggest authorities on sports in the business. But this past week, with the 2014 Laureus World Sports Awards in full swing in Kuala Lumpur, it became clear to everyone that sports is way more than just a group of sweaty men chasing after a ball. Yes, we at least know that’s football.
It’s about young men and women who inspire us by constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s humanly possible, sometimes even when they’re not that young anymore – as our interview with Tony Hawk clearly showed (more on that later).
Over the past week, we were able to take in all that inspiration at various Laureus-related events, from a grass-roots level football friendly to the swanky red carpet event ahead of the awards ceremony in Istana Budaya, touted as the Oscars of sports. Sports stars like Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Marc Marquez, Missy Franklin and our very own Nicol David, were all there, alongside celebrities Benedict Cumberbatch and Jamie Foxx – the host and performer at the event, respectively.
But it wasn’t all about the big night itself. The Laureus Foundation, for example, teamed up with local charity organisation Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia (YR1M) to benefit young people in Malaysia through sports. Some of Malaysia’s most talented young footballers were given a master class on “overcoming challenges through sport” by Laureus ambassadors André Villas-Boas, former Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea FC manager, and Mick Doohan, five-time 500cc motorcycle world motorcycle champion.
But that was nothing compared to what came next – the Laureus All-Star Unity Cup, where young local footballers got the chance of a lifetime to play a seven-a-side match alongside the likes of Steve McManaman, Hidetoshi Nakata, Michael Laudrup, Ronald de Boer and many more. They were even coached for the day by Johan Cruyff and Fabio Capello!
There was also an earlier event where X-games and skateboarding legend Tony Hawk joined forces with the Malaysian Extreme Sports Association (MESA), to visit Kuala Lumpur’s only covered X-games park to skate with the best homegrown young skaters.
To get an idea of how monumental this event was, realise that these kids – some barely taller than Hawk’s knees – had grown up with Tony Hawk as their idol. And instead of just telling them what to do and how to do it, he picked up his skateboard and did what he’s been doing his entire life – he skated in the same park and on the same ramps as the children.
And what better way to teach a teenager the value of determination than to see Tony Hawk himself, at 45, fumbling and falling on the ramps, but getting up again with the same intensity in his eyes to get the trick right the next time around.
Even Sherlock star Cumberbatch, who hosted the awards at Istana Budaya (where a huge army of teenagers had gathered for him), admitted to being a huge fan of Hawk; but he also added “that was before Justin Bieber entered my life.”
All jokes aside, the takeaway from the whole week is that no matter what age, race, or financial background anyone is from, sports becomes their common denominator.
In the arena, nobody cares how much you make or who your parents are, only how well you do and how much your will to succeed drives you.