Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Victory in defeat

It was a sheer gut-wrenching performance. For 45 minutes, I thought the impossible could happen. For 45 minutes, I harbour hopes of a great comeback in honour of the spirit of remembrance of the Hillsborough tragedy. For 45 minutes, I thought how wonderful a testimony it would have been, to tell the world that a ‘fighting spirit that never says die’ lives longer than winning games. That’s the strange thing in life. People often remember only the winners. However, winning is only made sweet when there is a long journey of heartache, disappointment and great suffering.

My favourite soccer team, Liverpool is one example. Not only are they an entertaining side (partly due to their inconsistency), they are one of those rare teams that never say die. Take the 2005 Champions League final, where they fought from 3-0 down to AC Milan, and bravely fought back. Yesterday’s game against Chelsea, their arch-rival is another classic. At half-time, they were one goal away from overturning a 3-goal deficit to Chelsea. Hopes were high. Doubts were low. The press was stunned into silence, from what seemed ‘impossible’ to start imagining that it is still possible. Unfortunately, the comeback that many hoped will happen, could not be sustained. The game ended in a thrilling 4-4 draw.

Amid the cries of agony, there are voices of victory shouting out with gusto. The irony is, there can be victory in defeat. I am certainly proud of the way the Liverpool players held their heads high to produce a performance that speaks volumes of the spirit of Liverpool Football Club. Take nothing away from Chelsea. They won deservedly. My point is that we can learn a couple of things from the amazing comeback spirit, the never-say-die attitude demonstrated in the Liverpool fight-back.

Firstly, life is not about winning or losing. It is about living as meaningfully as possible. Only then one can play with passion and work with commitment. It tells a lot when one says ‘To be a Liverpool player is to be a pleasure.’ As goalkeeper, Jose Reina was reported to say:

"At Stamford Bridge we were better, at Anfield they were. But it doesn't matter who was better, only who goes through. In the first half I thought we were going through, we were playing fantastic football and dominating them.

"We played for Liverpool with heart. All we could give was passion and commitment. To be a Liverpool player is a pleasure."

Reina has revealed his side were determined to honour the 96 Liverpool supporters killed in the Hillsborough disaster 20 years ago.

"We tried our best for 96 as well but couldn't do it," he said. "We were playing as 11 guys with a lot of passion but we were also lifted by 96 souls.

"We were moved by that and tried everything we could but in the end we did not manage it.
" “”

(Credit: Soccernet, 15 April 2009)
Secondly, learn to look forward. Even in loss, one can still look forward with a more determined stance for the next challenge. Sometimes, victory can introduce pride and invite seduction of laziness. Sometimes, the better thing to happen to us is not a win, but a loss. Liverpool’s inconsistency has cost them many titles over the past few years. They were topping the Premier League a couple of months ago, but some erratic performances cost them dearly. Now, in order to win, they will not only need to win all their games, they have to hope that their opponents falter along the way. It is a tough position to be in, knowing that one is not in full control. The only thing one can control, is to look forward positively and continue to do one’s best. Without a healthy view of the future, one’s view of the present moment can become easily buried in the suffocating soil of yesterday’s misfortunes. Look forward with hope, and press on with a constructive attitude to learn from past mistakes. There is no shame in losing. After-all, in sports, what matters more is spirited sportsmanship rather than childish tantrums that blames everybody else except oneself.

Thirdly, create a personal collection of great comebacks. There is nothing to be ashamed of when we have tried our best. In yesterday’s remarkable game, Liverpool has nothing to be ashamed of. Mistakes were made. Silly missteps were committed, but we cannot fault the positive attitude of playing a good game and making it really terrifying for the opponents. Other teams team would have called it quits after a first round loss. Others may write off the chances of any great comeback. However, the history of great comebacks is a worthwhile book to write. It brings much hope and encouragement. It could even save one’s life especially in the deepest despair. Interestingly, none of the recent Champions League victories in 2008 (Manchester United), 2007 (AC Milan) and 2006 (Barcelona) ever come close, in terms of fanfare and media reporting to the one won by Liverpool in 2005. This goes to show that winning a game is not the only thing. What is more meaningful is the manner in which it was won, or lost.

I am a Liverpool football club supporter and I am proud of it, regardless of victory or defeat. Can LFC win the English Premier League this year? With a ‘never-say-die’ attitude and careful performance, there is only one answer.


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