The Ferrari Formula One team has decided to eschew all ideas of separating politics from sports and chosen to fly the Italian Navy flag at the Indian Grand Prix, in solidarity with two officers detained for killing two Indian fishermen in February on the suspicion that they were pirates. The diplomatic row between Italy and India has continued owing to the Indian decision to try the officers in India: Italy insists that they should be tried at home, because the shooting took place in international waters.
While the diplomatic course of action in this case would merit a discussion of its own, it is baffling to see Ferrari resort to such an overtly political demonstration. When everybody kept quiet on the Bahrain human rights issue, preferring to keep politics out of sport, the Italian team’s sudden interest in the welfare of the Italian officers is an indictment of the insularity and elitist tendencies of the sport. They pick and choose political issues as per their convenience. Having been a supporter of the team for over a decade, I am extremely disappointed at their actions. Of course they insist that there is no disrespect for Indian sentiments, but a display of political affiliations on foreign soil is clearly unwarranted and provocative.
Where the case should be tried is still being disputed; but this is a battle that should be waged within political circles and find no place in sport. Both India and Italy have their reasons for wanting the case to be tried where they choose. But it is time for us to stop bending over and start making up our minds, irrespective of our dynastic government and its familial ties. The Quattrocchi case has already done enough damage; a repetition wouldn’t do us much good in international circles, and only serve to cement our reputation as a soft power. No action was taken on India’s protests against Dow Chemicals at the Olympics- our shambolic, long-drawn judicial processes played a part and reduced the efficacy of our arguments. However, once and for all, clear lines should be drawn to keep international diplomatic rows out of sport. Where there are guidelines, they should be respected. That Ferrari wields tremendous clout within F1 is no reason why it should seek an extension into the political arena, especially during the course of a Grand Prix weekend.