The Will to Win

“Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”
Perhaps the adage exemplifies how sports changed in thelatter half of the 20th century. Attributed to UCLA coach Henry Russell Sanders and/or Americanfootball coach Vince Lombardi, the saying exemplifies how professionally sportsbegan to be taken post 1950s.
There was a clear shift from the Olympic spirit from thenon, which preached us that ‘The most important thing is not to win but to takepart, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but thestruggle ‘. While the Olympic spirit gave us a ‘chance to celebrate our sharedhumanity’, Sanders and Lombardi taught us how to be ‘winners’.
This line made the marketers (read mega brands) crazy, andthe players; along with them the administrators, and also the fans, theenthusiasts. Players, for their wins, needed more money, administrators needed moremoney to sell the sport to mega brands, and mega brands wanted to collect allthe money from the fans. The fans, paying more than ever now, wanted result oftheir payment in the form of wins and were desperate for that. And the cyclecontinued. The only problem was it happened mostly in the nations that wereahead 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 wereready 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 inNepal as in USA. Globalization has made sure same things are offered on plattereverywhere. It has made sure Nepal has F1 enthusiasts, despite knowing hostingsuch races in the country would require a miracle of gigantic proportions.
With the change, demands of the fans have changed. They nolonger want their players to lose, nowhere. They back their players, so thatthey finish top of the podium.
They become disappointed when their cricket and footballteam lose semi-finals on the same day (ACC T20 Cup and SAFF Championship). Theyalso resort to throwing stones at opponents, in hope and in frustration. Unpardonable,but something that needs to be understood… The administrators may need toimprove security, but they also need to understand that wins actually help inthese cases.
For that, it needs to be instilled in the players that theycan win. If Nepali footballers can play good enough to be in semi-final anddominate possession, they can surely win.
Till now our performance shows that: If points were givenfor ball possession, our side would edge out many, except perhaps the world cupwinning Spanish side. Likewise, if points were given for crowd presence (andmissiles 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 theplayers’ body language – both in football and cricket. Their shoulders droopedwith every advancing moment, fear evident on their faces. Winners prowl withpride and not crawl in fear.
We saw New Zealand side beating Australia in Australia aftera gap of 26 years. For these many years, they could not, since they did nothave enough belief.
One should note that we have teams better than what theresults has shown us, in both the games. And we need results now to prove theskill, the class they have.
Before new lines are written in these columns, we are likelyto have new executive committee of Cricket Association of Nepal, following itsfirst 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 CricketBoard. 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-upappeared in Yours Truly’s weekly sports column – OFFSIDE – in The KathmanduPost, on 17rd December, 2011)

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