Heard a conversation in a public vehicle: God must be Nepali. For he made sure we do well in two sports in a single day.
Needless to say, the person in question was talking about Nepali football team’s performance against Jordan (2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers) and U-19 cricket team’s start in ICC U-19 World Cup qualifiers.
Yes, Nepali Colts beat Afghanistan convincingly. Most were expecting the result, may be not with such a margin though.
But in another case, Jordan advanced to the group stage of the qualifiers, beating Nepal by a huge margin. The scores, in aggregate, stood at 10-1 in favor of Jordan, while Nepal managed merely a draw at home. So what’s the fuss about? A draw?
However, if you look carefully, there is a reason for joy, for elation, for exuberance and for deciding which nationality God has. For, the draw followed a drubbing. And for the fans, a draw was as good as a win. It was almost a rise from the ashes à la Phoenix. For the die-hard fans, there are many lives lost and gained in those 90 minutes that their stars sweat it out.
Forget fans, how many ‘realistic’ pundits would have given Nepal a 1-1 draw, at Dashrath Stadium, after a 9-goal storm hit them in Amman.
The realists always ask you: What do you do when you have your back pushed to the wall? …when you hit the rock bottom?
For theorists, the answer may be simple: Bounce back. But then, only those who face the situation know that it’s always easier said than done. They say, nothing succeeds like success. The corollary is also true. Failure also breeds its own kind. When your back is to the wall, you start taking support of that wall. It becomes your companion, and you start finding some comfort in it. You start going though the motion… run-of-the-mill stuff. So much that you start enjoying it, making it difficult for you to come back.
At such moments, it is necessary to break the thought process. Once that chain is broken, parity can be restored. In this case, Nepal’s climb in FIFA ranking must have helped. After all, we became the number one football side in South Asia. Some pride restored off the field.
Apparently, following the 9-0 humiliation, Nepal’s British coach had told the boys, “You don’t become a bad player after one game.” Inspiring? Maybe, but the coaches don’t go and play. It’s for the boys to face the heat.
Even in pre-match press conference, Roberts was quoted as saying that they (the team, including himself) wanted to put pride back into Nepal and want to please everyone. The captain, however, sounded more circumspect, not promising much. Somehow, the fans were worried. “Are the players in right frame of mind to play this game,” they wondered.
But once the match started, worry was put to rest. The boys were in the zone and felt at home. The fans could do their job – cheering. In sport, as in life, some questions are answered only through actions.
Going to Amman, to play the first leg, Nepali team was underprepared, under-practiced and showed lethargy on the field. The football administrators should take some blame for that, for they know in advance when the national team plays. And they are supposed to prepare them for big matches. Nothing big about that, it’s their job.
Amazingly, not much changed in 5 days – after match in Amman, but the result did. One thing that changed was that the players realized or made to realize why they were playing – for their shirts. And the performance was there for all to see. Some would like to call it moral victory.
Sourav Ganguly, the person credited to make Indian cricket team a fighting unit, said once, “I do not understand the meaning of moral victories.” But then, that was Indian captain talking. For fans, that’s what it is all about.
And for the players, maybe they can take a leaf out of their coach’s quote and remember – You don’t become a great player after one game, either. Could it be just the start we needed?
(PS: The write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s sports column – OFFSIDE – in The Kathmandu Post, on 30th July, 2011)
Disclaimer: The picture shown in the post is courtesy www.ekantipur.com. It was published in the The Kathmandu Post epaper.