The Art of Losing

Nepali youth team didnot do well at the AFU U-16 Championship group D Qualifiers at home, despiteour best wishes and sizeable crowd support. First two matches, the boys wereblanked. Never a good sign if you are pinning your hopes on young talents, whensome of the youths in the national team are showing signs of fading early.
Before the startof the series, Coach Sunil Shrestha told us, ‘There’s not much difference amongthe sides at the age-group level’. That meant we had a good chance, and we grewhopeful. 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 ormore. But these were age-group matches. Our boys did not appear too weak, infront of them. And at this level, skill is considered ahead of physique.
But we wereblanked.
Losing matches ispart and parcel of the game, and would always remain so. It should always betaken 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 wouldrally the midfield, Bibek Basnet and Umesh Thapa were out of the team beforethe tourney began. Some others also picked niggles while in the play.
But the manner ofloss should be studied, scrutinized. And maybe a little bit of history too.
The boys, right onthe 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 onetourney, so that is not important. A few bad days on the field do not makeplayers any lesser.
What the footballadministrators should actually look into is the fact that our youth team hasnot won a match against any other nation in last 4 years. After 2007, when theboys defeated mighty Jordan 3-1, we have lost 7 matches and were blanked in 6 ofthem. The last people to score a goal for Nepali U-16 team were Nirajan Mallaand Sujal Shrestha, against Kuwait the same year. Both are in the national teamnow.
That basicallymeans 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 youhaven’t heard of winning ways, the loss creeps into your system, and you startaccepting 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 followorders. The losses start hurting less and less.
Success has manyfathers, but failure is an orphan.
And the greatestdisservice ANFA could do to football would be ignoring this. This should be thetime they do not let this failure look like an orphan. For players would needsupport from their administrators, especially after morale shattering losses.Otherwise, they would start becoming machines produced to serve substandardproducts. There is every chance that mediocrity could become their way of life,if left unattended.
There are fearsthat these young minds may start thinking that winning or losing is notpersonal. It actually is, despite what Don Corleone said in movie The Godfather.Thinking otherwise may derail them. Unless the loss hurts, one can do nothingabout changing the result. They should be told, the sport is played more inmind than on the field these days.
Theadministrators, Coach included, could do well to tell them the importance offitness. How to avoid injury at such an age would go a long way in preservinggood talents for the future. And we could have our best boys taking the fieldagainst any opposition.
Or else, our boyswill perfect what we could say: The Art of Losing.
(PS: The write-upappeared in Yours Truly’s weekly sports column – OFFSIDE – in The KathmanduPost, on 17th September, 2011)
Disclaimer: Thepicture shown in the post is courtesy: www.goalnepal.com

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