The Art of Losing


Nepali youth team did not do well at the AFU U-16 Championship group D Qualifiers at home, despite our best wishes and sizeable crowd support. First two matches, the boys were blanked. Never a good sign if you are pinning your hopes on young talents, when some of the youths in the national team are showing signs of fading early.
Before the start of the series, Coach Sunil Shrestha told us, ‘There’s not much difference among the sides at the age-group level’. That meant we had a good chance, and we grew hopeful. Of the four countries participating, we were the lowest ranked side. Oman, Saudi Arabia and Syria are ranked ahead of us by FIFA, well 30 places or more. But these were age-group matches. Our boys did not appear too weak, in front of them. And at this level, skill is considered ahead of physique.
But we were blanked.
Losing matches is part and parcel of the game, and would always remain so. It should always be taken that way. Win some, lose some – is a mantra many sports stars reiterate. To top it, we had some important players who were injured. Those who would rally the midfield, Bibek Basnet and Umesh Thapa were out of the team before the tourney began. Some others also picked niggles while in the play.
But the manner of loss should be studied, scrutinized. And maybe a little bit of history too.
The boys, right on the first match against Syria looked out of sorts. There seemed to be no plan. The hold on the ball was not seen. And things hardly improved in the next matches.
But this is one tourney, so that is not important. A few bad days on the field do not make players any lesser.
What the football administrators should actually look into is the fact that our youth team has not won a match against any other nation in last 4 years. After 2007, when the boys defeated mighty Jordan 3-1, we have lost 7 matches and were blanked in 6 of them. The last people to score a goal for Nepali U-16 team were Nirajan Malla and Sujal Shrestha, against Kuwait the same year. Both are in the national team now.
That basically means that the present U-16 players haven’t heard of Nepali U-16 team winning, while they’ve been at the Academy. That doesn’t do good to their morale. Losing, like winning, is a habit. You practice for it, everyday. And if you haven’t heard of winning ways, the loss creeps into your system, and you start accepting any result as ‘it was to be’. The drills become rituals, and players – especially the young ones – do not see a point in them. They just follow orders. The losses start hurting less and less.
Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.
And the greatest disservice ANFA could do to football would be ignoring this. This should be the time they do not let this failure look like an orphan. For players would need support from their administrators, especially after morale shattering losses. Otherwise, they would start becoming machines produced to serve substandard products. There is every chance that mediocrity could become their way of life, if left unattended.
There are fears that these young minds may start thinking that winning or losing is not personal. It actually is, despite what Don Corleone said in movie The Godfather. Thinking otherwise may derail them. Unless the loss hurts, one can do nothing about changing the result. They should be told, the sport is played more in mind than on the field these days.
The administrators, Coach included, could do well to tell them the importance of fitness. How to avoid injury at such an age would go a long way in preserving good talents for the future. And we could have our best boys taking the field against any opposition.
Or else, our boys will perfect what we could say: The Art of Losing.
(PS: The write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s weekly sports column – OFFSIDE – in The Kathmandu Post, on 17th September, 2011)
Disclaimer: The picture shown in the post is courtesy:

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