«We need to be better. We have to love more. Hate less. We need to listen more and talk less. We need to know that each of us has the responsibility to make this world a better place». Megan Rapinoe, 34, the lavender-tressed American national soccer player, spoke these words on July 11th from a specially built stage in New York. A clear and direct speech that, during the celebration of the victory of the last World Cup, which took place in France (and to which she contributed 6 goals), managed to transcend the sporting boundaries to speak to everyone. The quality of a true leader. Which goes beyond the captain's role.
In this perspective, the history of sport has given us several personalities who have been able to generate a consensus that goes beyond the limits of their discipline. Just think of stars like Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Socrates, Niki Lauda and many others. Or contemporary heroes such as Colin Kaepernick, the American football player who a few seasons ago initiated the trend of kneeling during the anthem in protest against discrimination and violence. «I will not stand to show my pride in the flag of a country that oppresses blacks and ethnic minorities. It's more important to me than football, and it would be selfish to look the other way. There are dead bodies on the streets and people who get away with it», he stated in an interview. Positions that on the one hand divide, with opponents pointing the finger at the blurring between the sporting and social and political level; while on the other hand, helping to create consensus, and to cement it beyond the performance on the playing field.
The history of sport has given us several personalities who have been able to generate a consensus that goes beyond the limits of their discipline
And in 2019, women have taken over this phenomenon: not only Rapinoe, but also Sara Gama, captain of the Italian soccer team, has spoken out for a greater recognition of the sport. «Racism is one of the viruses of intolerance», she said during an interview before the world cup adventure. After the first match (which they won) against Australia, she received a shower of insults on social media, where people questioned the Italianness of this woman born in Trieste, but it also led her to become the face of a Mattel doll, a sign of the fight against stereotypes against the female gender. More recently, Federica Pellegrini won the gold medal in the 200 freestyle at the World Swimming Championships in South Korea. A result that, for the moment and as we wait for Tokyo 2020, is the culmination of a career in which "La Divina (The Divine)" was able to assert her determination. A promising young talent at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Pellegrini was the flag bearer in Brazil and helped break the monopoly of football and beat prejudices about sport and femininity: «High-level sport does not hinder femininity at all. Of course, you can't turn up to training in high heels, but outside the pool you can give free rein to your feminine side».
Roger Federer has also become a leader on and off the court. Widely admired for his style, the Swiss tennis player along with rival Novak Djokovic took center stage in the last Wimbledon final, won by the Serb. A defeat that did not undermine Federer's determination: «I hope I have given others a chance to believe that it’s not all over at 37», he commented at the end of the match. An encouragement to himself and his fans who see in Federer a unique model of human and professional behavior. The same can be said of Daniele De Rossi: captain after the Totti era of the Roma team and who has now thrown himself into a new adventure in Argentina, in the Boca Juniors team. A recognized and perhaps somewhat betrayed leader who, before being overwhelmed by remorse and regret, set off on to South America. Like a real leader.