Thursday, 9 December 2010

Slow learners in the art of losing

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same

… you’ll be a man, my son, according to Rudyard Kipling in his most famous poem, If. Perhaps it would be nice to add ‘you’ll be a woman, my daughter’ as well, but then Kipling wasn’t perhaps the most progressive of men. I had a lot of time for him until I discovered that he had contributed to the fund for that poor Brigadier Dyer, so cruelly driven out of the Army for carrying out a policing operation in Jallianwallah Bagh which unforgiving folk like me think of today as the Amritsar Massacre.

Spot of unpleasantness in Amritsar: a monument to Brigadier Dyer
Still, Kipling has a point in expressing the sentiment in these lines. You take part; sometimes you win, sometimes you lose; you should take either with equanimity and move on. That certainly is the ideal behaviour of the phlegmatic Englishman, imperturbable in all circumstances.

Which is why it’s a major concern when Sepp Blatter, president of the world football federation FIFA, absolutely rightly accuses England of being bad losers.

FIFA handed the 2018 World Cup to Russia. So what? In the first place, it’s time more places outside the traditional regions of Europe and South America got their chance. In the second place, this is a contest with only one winner and multiple losers and the latter need to take it with good grace. It’s increasingly embarrassing to see our papers bleating on about how badly we were treated.

One reason we lost the bid was because sections of our media have been campaigning against corruption among FIFA officials, and those same FIFA officials decided to punish us by not choosing England to host the Cup. That’s not a cause for regret. It’s a cause for pride. We wouldn’t shut up about how rotten the organisation is, and it cost us the World Cup. That’s called taking a stand on principle and accepting the consequences. The opposite, if we’d muzzled our press and TV on the subject in the hope of succeeding in our bid, would have been craven.

Blatter and Putin:made for each other?

And Wikileaks has confirmed what all of us have long suspected about the debased nature of the Russian Federation. If two thoroughly dishonourable federations join up, who’s to be surprised? Again, why sulk? That’s the natural order of things.

But what shocks me most about the fact that we’re losing so badly is that we’ve no excuse for it. Kipling’s advice is excellent. But in addition, they say that practice makes perfect, and England has an unparalleled track record for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, in sporting competition after competition.

So how come we’re still so bad at losing?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My own view is that England lost because, taking a leaf from Vincent Cable's book, him not sure whether he was going to vote for a bill he engineered, England might not have voted for itself!