The Will to Win


“Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”
Perhaps the adage exemplifies how sports changed in the latter half of the 20th century.  Attributed to UCLA coach Henry Russell Sanders and/or American football coach Vince Lombardi, the saying exemplifies how professionally sports began to be taken post 1950s.
There was a clear shift from the Olympic spirit from then on, which preached us that ‘The most important thing is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle ‘. While the Olympic spirit gave us a ‘chance to celebrate our shared humanity’, Sanders and Lombardi taught us how to be ‘winners’.
This line made the marketers (read mega brands) crazy, and the players; along with them the administrators, and also the fans, the enthusiasts. Players, for their wins, needed more money, administrators needed more money to sell the sport to mega brands, and mega brands wanted to collect all the money from the fans. The fans, paying more than ever now, wanted result of their payment in the form of wins and were desperate for that. And the cycle continued. The only problem was it happened mostly in the nations that were ahead of us, in terms of development.
As we lay behind in development, so were our sports administrators. They found an excuse for their lethargy, saying ‘at least we are participating’. We took the bait, we felt that’s true. We knew we deserved better, but we were ready to wait… eternally.
But now, with the turn of the century and reach of media, thing are no more same. Tiger Woods’ failing marriage is watched as eagerly in Nepal as in USA. Globalization has made sure same things are offered on platter everywhere. It has made sure Nepal has F1 enthusiasts, despite knowing hosting such races in the country would require a miracle of gigantic proportions.
With the change, demands of the fans have changed. They no longer want their players to lose, nowhere. They back their players, so that they finish top of the podium.
They become disappointed when their cricket and football team lose semi-finals on the same day (ACC T20 Cup and SAFF Championship). They also resort to throwing stones at opponents, in hope and in frustration. Unpardonable, but something that needs to be understood… The administrators may need to improve security, but they also need to understand that wins actually help in these cases.
For that, it needs to be instilled in the players that they can win. If Nepali footballers can play good enough to be in semi-final and dominate possession, they can surely win.
Till now our performance shows that: If points were given for ball possession, our side would edge out many, except perhaps the world cup winning Spanish side. Likewise, if points were given for crowd presence (and missiles hurled by them to the visiting teams), Nepal would edge out Australia (and perhaps, India – unless the match is played in Eden Gardens).
The belief, the push for the win was not visible from the players’ body language – both in football and cricket. Their shoulders drooped with every advancing moment, fear evident on their faces. Winners prowl with pride and not crawl in fear.
We saw New Zealand side beating Australia in Australia after a gap of 26 years. For these many years, they could not, since they did not have enough belief.
One should note that we have teams better than what the results has shown us, in both the games. And we need results now to prove the skill, the class they have.
Before new lines are written in these columns, we are likely to have new executive committee of Cricket Association of Nepal, following its first ever election. Whoever leads it, regardless of the political affiliation, he will have to work on the will to win for the players. Sooner, than later…
Underdeveloped and developing may not be excuse anymore. Some insiders say, CAN has more money in its coffers than Sri Lankan Cricket Board. And Sri Lanka, we know, have been the world champions.
Winning isn’t everything. The will to win is the only thing.

(PS: The write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s weekly sports column – OFFSIDE – in The Kathmandu Post, on 17rd December, 2011)

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