My blog this week was inspired not just by the disappointment of seeing the soccer team I support losing the final of a major tournament, but by seeing the reactions of the Coach and the players to it.
Love them or hate them, and this club seems to polarise those reactions, our lads were played off the park by undoubtedly the most successful team of the last three years.
To lose in any final of any sport is always a very bitter pill to swallow, because history tends to overlook those who came merely second place, despite the tremendous effort that it took to reach the final in the first place.
The emotion displayed during such a competition is the most important things that compel us to watch sport – to capture the essence of humanity, the highs and lows of victory and defeat.
Every final shows the agony on the faces of the vanquished and the joyful excitement of the victorious. The faces of the fans on the terraces emulate those of their heroes in the arena.
During that two hour period, or however long your chosen event lasts, you are uplifted and crushed, sometimes within seconds, as a goal is scored or conceded, and for that brief period of escapism, all of our daily challenges are put aside.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned from sport, which is why it’s so great for children to be involved in it at an early age and to be encouraged for their efforts, regardless of whether they succeed or falter.
In this instance my team all acknowledged that they had been beaten by a better side. There were no complaints about referee’s decisions, what if’s or if only’s.
They simply said, “We did our best, but they were better, and congratulations to them for it.”
That kind of reaction is a breath of fresh air, compared with a lot of the excuses we have become accustomed to hearing.
When the coach of the vanquished was interviewed after the match, he said, ”There was good evidence we are a consistently good European team but we were beaten by the best team in Europe and there is no shame in that. Sometimes you come up against a far better team and tonight was one of those nights.”
The team who won so convincingly are also a young team. Their most gifted star and arguably the best player in the world, is Lionel Messi, who is only 23.
No-one could therefore blame the defeated coach, who has already passed the usual retirement age, for deciding that he may as well call it a day and retire to rest on his laurels of having just completed a record-establishing 19th English title win.
Yet this man, who like is team, is either loved or hated, dismissed the notion of settling for that easy retreat.
Sir Alex Ferguson responded as you would expect from a man who is probably one of the most driven leaders on the planet.
When it was suggested United can never match Barca, 69-year-old Fergie said:
“You shouldn’t be afraid of a challenge. It’s no consolation being the second-best team. I don’t enjoy being second-best. Next season we must improve even more.”
Whether he succeeds or fails is immaterial. The point is that he embodies and advocates the spirit of persistence and determination.
One of my favourite quotes is from 26th US President, Theodore Roosevelt, who said,
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Tony’s Viewpoint: “Dream big, be brave and try hard to be kind and generous.
Set yourself challenging goals and be determined and persistent in their achievement. Never accept the obstacles as impossible hurdles.
Don’t be despondent if you don’t quite make it, the real joy is in realising the person you become in the attempt.”