Goals off the field

What a non-follower of football learns from the sport this World Cup season

Adrenaline rush, entertainment unlimited, frenzy action ­— it’s all in the game. Who can resist the non-stop activity, the heart-racing performance and the awe-inspiring talent behind every kick of the ball? The ease, ability and agility with which the pros move, manoeuvre and head the football are not just a delight to watch, they are also a vicarious sporting experience any sport-loving fan could indulge in.

The World Cup, which showcases the game of football at its best, is in the mind of every sport lover the world over, right from the qualifying matches to the final, big one. Favourite teams, revered players, respected coaches and popular strategies form the most-discussed daily topic during the season. And for a few who would like to cull out more than mere entertainment and vicarious participation, the World Cup can also be a stage where some life lessons can be garnered. Over the many years that I’ve followed this international quadrennial tournament, several eternal values and mundane lessons have unfolded, which I’ve often pondered on.

The biggest takeaway from the game, I reckon, is the courage with which the players enter the arena. Being watched by millions of fans, and notwithstanding the fear of failure that must be gripping each player, the courage behind these youngsters in chasing the coveted crown in a collected manner is moving.

Courage, which is often described as a force that helps resist and transcend fear, is certainly palpable in the aura of these players, making them good role models of the virtue.

There are other equally significant attributes that make these players stand tall as heroes worthy of adulation and emulation.

For, behind their expertise, who can deny the hard work, discipline, perseverance, teamwork and focus? The tenacity of these players in gaining mastery over the game is something many aspire but only a few attain. They are live illustrations of what single-minded attention and complete commitment can give the common man. They are shining examples of the age-old truth that persevering can accomplish feats that even hereditary and lineage can never guarantee.

I’ve also often been impressed at the obedience and humility shown by these players on the field. When a card, be it yellow or red, is flashed at a faulting player, he makes haste, albeit in disappointment, to walk out of the field in all humility and obedience. Though a few are seen trying to explain and indulge in some justification for the foul made, every one of them acknowledges that the decision of the referee is final.

Finally, when I see the underdogs compete enthusiastically with the teams placed notches above them, knowing that victory is far-fetched, it’s a priceless lesson in true sportsmanship that endorses the adage­ — ‘It’s not to have won but to have fought well; it’s not the victory but the fight.’

It’s not surprising, then, that every four years, I silently list the life lessons these sporting geniuses offer to the world, and despite not being a football follower, I raise a toast to the game and the youngsters competing in the world’s most followed sport with such passion and admirable earnestness.

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Goals off the field

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