UNESCO members meet boxer-turned-politician Manny Pacquiao in Los Angeles
The UNESCO has a self-proclaimed mandate of building peace through collaborations among nations. When the organization appointed Shammi Rana as rapporteur of UNESCO Traditional Sports and Games Ad Hoc Advisory Committee in 2017, they made a major statement towards achieving their set goal of using traditional sports and games as a tool to unite professionals and amateurs alike across various sports disciplines.
Rana is a former athlete and coach who brings a wealth of experience to this role. He is a seasoned sports activist with over two decades of field work, and is also a widely acclaimed promoter of martial arts.
Rana has been tasked with advancing the mission of UNESCO by fostering international cooperation through sports. To that end, he has been working with Hari Osias Banaag, a member of the TSG Advisory Committee, to create a Pan American Traditional Sports and Games.
Banaag is also a major coup for the UNESCO. Having literally discovered the Filipino sport of Sikaran (a form of martial arts) in his own backyard, he has gone on to master the sport and become a Grand master.
Banaag is the founder of the global Sikaran Federation and has never stopped researching and teaching the traditional sport since 1968. He has well over five decades of experience in martial arts, and his passion and experience will help in no small way towards the development of TSGs.
Both these arrowheads met with Filipino legend and professional boxer-turned-politician Manny Pacquiao, who currently serves as a senator of the Philippines. This meeting was set up in Los Angeles to discuss the support concepts of UNESCO on Traditional Sports and Games and the joining of the Philippine government as a member of Traditional Sport and Games.
Unfortunately however, the meeting didn't achieve the full objectives as Pacquiao was preoccupied with training for his WBA world welterweight title fight with Adrien Broner slated for 19 January 2019. Pacquiao has promised to meet with the duo again to discuss the details of the agenda.
UNESCO aims to achieve international recognition and safeguarding of traditional sports and games, and has been hard at work canvassing support from all over the world.
Earlier in the year, Rana met two Canadian parliamentarians to push the TSG agenda. In August, at the 4th collective consultation meeting of the TSG, Rana and the rest of the committee met with Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as sports ministers from Turkey, Gambia, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar and Ivory Coast.
The committee had one agenda – how to include traditional sports in the daily sports of countries. One of the major outcomes of the meeting was the choice of Kazakhstan as host country of the first Worldwide Traditional Games, to be held in 2021.
The concept of traditional sports and games differs from modern popular sports. Even though a lot of modern sport is premised on the roots of traditional sports, the latter have lost some of their appeal and are near extinction.
To revive these sports and to catch the fancy of potential participants, a widely acceptable and respectable sportsperson is the ideal draw. That explains the choice of Pacquiao to help raise awareness in the Philippines.
The Philippines has a rich cultural heritage in sports and boasts of a number of traditional sports and games like Arnis, Eskrima, Kali and Sikaran. These have gained popularity in recent years, while there are some reports that the US army and Russian Special Forces have incorporated some of these arts in real life training.
With the experience of Rana and Banaag, coupled with the celebrity status and the perceived class with which Manny Pacquiao has done everything in his career, the UNESCO has the perfect mix to achieve its objectives in the Philippines and beyond.