Two interesting football matches panned out on two consecutive days. There were eerie similarities between both. One team an underdog with no chance of winning, the other the pre-tournament favourite and overwhelmingly superior in skill and in physical ability and temperament and experience. First day was Spain vs the host nation Russia. Second day was Japan vs Belgium.

Only two results were anticipated.

Only one panned out and the other didn’t.

Spain took an early lead through an own goal by the russian defender, then dominated the match in the first half and the second except for a moment of stupidity by Pique raising his hand over his head during a corner, resulting in a handball and a Russian Penalty which they duly converted. Spain had the maximum possession, first time in ages that a team strung together more than a 1000 passes in a match. Russia did not have a single shot on goal. Yet Russia hung on and won the penalties.

Belgium on the other hand, looked out of sorts in the first half which ended at 0-0. Suddenly Japan countered brilliantly, with two dazzling moments of brilliance putting them up 2-0 with 20 odd minutes to play.

And it was as if a light somewhere switched on in the heads of Belgium. One fortuitous goal brought them back in the game, another soon followed and they nicked it with 10 seconds to go with a brilliant end to end run starting from the goalkeeper to the scorer all in total 9.9 seconds before the whistle. The japanese were utterly distraught, disconsolate, lying on the fields in disbelief. There will be a lot of analysis by armchair critics as to how japan messed up, or the strength of the belgian attack, their golden generation, their destiny and everything, but i do not want to write anything about football.

I just am left wondering whether spain needed the exact same thing to happen to them in order to qualify. Whether a russian moment of brilliance, an early goal, an insurmountable setback would have shaken them out of their stupor and their arrogance that with a good game, a goal was sure to follow. That the russians DIDNT score first, or that spain were NEVER needed to dig deep in order to let their brilliance surface, maybe that caused them to lose. Belgium had it worse, they were going out of the tournament and suddenly that massive fact struck them with 20 minutes to go. It never struck Spain that they would lose till they actually lost.

There’s a life lesson in there somewhere that probably a motivational speaker or a self help guru can draw in management coaching. But currently i find that i was coasting through my days, not unbothered but generally comfortable, and never under the threat of being knocked out. Passing the ball like spain, keeping possession, keeping your destiny in your own hands till the last minute, all the cliches playing out. The key word that strikes me is comfortable.

Only when you are literally knocked out of your comfort zone, do you wonder. Can you find the streak of ruthlessness that is needed to showcase all your commitment and skill and talent? Can you find it somewhere inside you – something that knocks out all the immaterial things out of the window, your laziness and your adoration and your desire to prove yourself, your constant urge to improve – can you find something shameless and unapologetic and loud to throw every one of those things under the roaring rushing train of unqualified success?

Cos thats what belgium found they had and spain didn’t search for. It wasn’t the desire to win, everyone has a vague fluffy desire to win something incredible – maybe fame or adoration or plain simple validation or maybe something more carnal, raw, unattainable. Desire, need, and all the above words are reactive.

To find the back of the net with 10 seconds on the clock and the ball in the hands of your own goalkeeper 130 yards away. It just needs something else. It needs that monster of failure peering deep into your eyes whereas otherwise it is hidden deep in that closet of maybes behind the excuses of time and busyness and whats-the-need and laziness and complacency/ Oh i could have been that if i wanted, oh if i put my mind to it, this was doable but you know i didn’t really want it oh i never really was inclined towards that but it must not be difficult. These are failures you never see. And now all of a sudden there’s one which you do see. One that inserts his long fingers through your throat deep into your gut the way and gag you the way you want your partner to on those moments while you thrust but here the fingers have tentacles and you gag but it keeps pulling it keeps pulling and its time to do something or your guts are going to be in its hands for the world to see.

Belgium had its guts pulled out. Spain didnt.

If that explains anything.

 

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