The word sport, as well as many other English words associated with sports and games, has no translation. Sportsmen all over the world use such words as corner, offside, hands, dribbling, tackling, net and even those who are not boxing fans know the meaning of round, ring, knock-out, or uppercut.
Many of the most popular sports practised all over the world are of British origin and the English are traditionally considered good sportsmen.
The English think, however, that to be a good sportsman does not necessarily mean to play well and be able to beat the opponents. Beating the opponents is not the only reason for playing. Of course winning is important, but a game has a value in itself, for its own sake. It is first and foremost recreation and fun, and not a war for the ambitious.
In order to be a good sportsman one must be able to play with respect for the rules and the referee’s decisions, be modest when one wins and patient when one loses. This is what the English call sporting spirit.
In this sense, sport and fair play have a great educational importance, and this is the reason why British schools pay so much attention to them. Every English schoolboy is taught to live life with a sportsman’s attitude: to endure hardships, to respect his opponents, and above all to play the game, that is to act and to behave honestly.
When an Englishman wants to refer to something unfair, he usually save: That isn’t cricket!. For the English, in fact, cricket is something more than their national game: it is the pattern for a gentleman’s behaviour.
Source: R. Colle – I. Vay, L’esame di inglese, Lattes, an old Italian book 1974.