Opinion: International students forced to cope with lack of worldwide sports coverage

(By: Thomas Debost)

Imagine not being able to watch the big game.

The feeling one gets when their favourite team wins the championship is phenomenal. Not being able to find the game on TV, not so much.

This is a struggle that I, along with other international students at Ryerson face on a daily basis. Whether it’s a time-zone issue, or simply a lack of coverage, some must go out of their way to get their sports fix.

I’m from Paris, France, and I came to Ryerson as a part of the school’s RTA Sport Media program. I love sports, and like many other Europeans, my favourite sport is football. Yes I said football, not soccer. My favourite club is Arsenal from the English Premier League.

Luckily, Sportsnet does broadcast English football. The problem is the five-hour time difference, forcing me to wake up way too early on Sunday mornings to watch Arsenal’s games. Anyone who is as passionate as I am about a certain sport or team would understand why I do it, but I’m also taking on a university course-load. Sundays should be for sleep, but for me, Sunday’s are for football.

I live at the International Living & Learning Centre (ILLC), which acts as a temporary home for students all over the world who have chosen to study at Ryerson. Though they return home after each school year, they spend most of their university career in Toronto, where North American sports hold the spotlight.

According to a study conducted by Statista in 2015, the most watched TV sports broadcasts in Canada included American football (NFL), hockey (NHL), baseball (MLB) and Canadian football (CFL).

Vedika Singh, a first-year student from Mumbai, India, living in ILLC, wishes she could keep up with her national cricket team. Singh is very passionate about cricket, as are a lot of people in her country, she said. Canada’s lack of cricket coverage makes it very difficult for her to keep up.

“Unfortunately, no TV channels broadcast prime time cricket games, and streaming is too difficult and rarely works correctly,” said Singh. “It’s hard for me to watch sports from back home, something that I truly miss.”

My neighbour Can Tokman is an international student from Turkey. His heart and soul goes out to the Turkish soccer league, a league that doesn’t get much of a following in any other countries. Tokman said he can barely breathe watching games in the tense moments, and that nothing will stop him from accessing them despite a lack of TV coverage in Canada.

“At first it was difficult for me to adapt to the time zones to be able to watch the games,” said Tokman. “I have been trying to manage with streaming my games because I just need to watch them.”

I can’t help but feel sympathy for Singh, Tokman, and every other international student deprived from watching the sport they love.

Meanwhile, you can find me at ILLC looking for a way to watch the next game.

(Header photo courtesy of wonker/Flickr)

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