Riza Zalameda was born in the USA and now lives in Los Angeles California. She started playing tennis at the age of five, and turned professional at fifteen. Zalameda boasts a very successful junior career. She was granted a scholarship to UCLA where she studied cultural anthropology thus becoming aware of the importance of cultural diplomacy. After graduating in 2008 she travelled around the world as a professional tennis player. She experienced very different cultural environments, although her enrollment in professional competitions somewhat limited the scope of these experiences.
- You were a professional tennis player. Do you see international sporting events as an ideal place for cultural dialogue?
To me, these events are one of the arenas where ethnicity, race, gender, and age melts away. These social identifiers do not play a major role in sport; on the contrary,skills, talent and sportsmanship are what matter significantly. People from different cultural backgrounds have the rare opportunity to congregate and meet face-to-face. Here, there are no dividing lines. Realistically, I think that even though people do not tackle intercultural problems openly, they can meet up in a neutral space and talk about their interests. In sports, everyone shares a common ground either the aim to win, or love of the game.
- You come from a multicultural city, Los Angeles. Can you say a few words about sport and integration in this context?
Historically, tennis was played by privileged people. Nowadays, it is a more open sport, but buying equipment and renting a court remains expensive. In this regard, some sports can sometimes be divisive. Nevertheless, I believe that other disciplines, collective sports in particular, can bring people together and enable them to reach a higher socio-economic status. I am convinced that this model may be transposed to conflicting areas. For instance, if a Palestinian and an Israeli individual can meet on the court and play together, this would represent a major achievement towards a better understanding. So imagine if political leaders could do that…
- How would you define the power of sport?
Sports open so many possibilities. As I said before, it is a vehicle for social mobility. Moreover, it can provide grants, education and jobs opportunities.