My dad is (yes, is, even at 52 years of age) a footballer, so I grew up with soccer largely embedded into my DNA. When I was a baby, every single Sunday would be spent on the pitch, and for the whole 90 minutes of the game, I would be passed around and would be in the arms of different footballers’ wives. I honestly have no recollection of that memory but my parents swore by it. I asked if I ever cried when another stranger would pick me up, my mother said “oh no, actually, you are one of the easiest baby to care for!” (oh yeah! I was so cool and flexible even when I was a kid, heh!)
My dad is a Goalkeeper – he never played any other positions. I always thought (but never had the courage to tell him) that being the Goalkeeper is like the worst position ever. I mean, doesn’t every one aim to be the forward/striker? Anyways, I thought that being the Goalkeeper has no special merit – if the team won, no credit will be given to the Goalie (only to the scorers); and if the team lost, everyone would blame the Keeper. And that sucks. But when I saw, at the end of every single game how each and every one of the players would go to my dad and give him a big (manly) hug and a high-5 and the respect that they give to him (plus he’s the Captain of the team), I realised it’s really not so much about your ‘position’ in the team, but how much of a team-player you are and how much value you can bring to the game.
After a while I realised, although being a Goalkeeper is not as glamorous as being a Striker, the team cannot play without a Goalie and the game cannot go on without the Keeper as well.
Now, on to what the World Cup Has Taught Me About Life:
Champions Don’t Always Stay Champions; Losers Don’t Always Stay Losers.
The only constant thing in this life is change and the teams playing for the World Cup can definitely testify to this. France won the World Cup in 1998, but at the next World Cup (2002), they were eliminated at the preliminary group stage. So did Italy (champions of the 2006 World Cup, eliminated at the 2010 preliminary stage) and more recently Spain (champions at the 2010 World Cup, eliminated at the 2014 preliminary stage)! This proves that it doesn’t mean you were once a winner, you will always stay at the top.
Additionally, more and more Underdog teams have made it to the next round of the World Cup. This year, we saw Costa Rica, Algeria, USA and Nigeria, all beating the likes of Spain, Portugal, Italy and England to make it to the Round of 16. And they deserved to be in the next round as they all played well, it wasn’t just by sheer luck or chance.
It made me realise that life is fair. Very fair. If you work hard, you succeed. Its very simple. It might take days to see this “success”, it might take months, and in the case of the World Cup, 4 years, but if you work and train hard, and you hustle, you will succeed. If you are complacent, smug, self-satisfied and you lack humility, you will be trampled by other much, much deserving individuals/team.
Don’t Just Keep Chasing Balls, You Have To Score Goals.
In every match, teams have 90 minutes to score as many goals as they can within that period to win the game. It doesn’t matter if your team has the higher possession rate or if your players can kick the ball at a much further distance; the main aim of the game is to score goals. Life is similar. We do not have an infinite amount of time in this world, so we have to stop chasing unnecessary things and instead focus on “scoring goals”.
Also, theres a million and one ways to net a goal: sometimes you have to take risks, sometimes you have to run harder for the ball, sometimes you have to use your head or your chest or your knees – whatever it is you need to do to score that goal, you do it. Similarly, when it comes to life, if there is something that needs to be done to achieve your aim or your dreams, do it. Just do it. Don’t just keep forming plans and schemes in your head without putting those ideas into actions!
Choose Your Best Players For The Team. No Ego-Personalities Please.
Like football, you need a solid, reliable and formidable team to win at life. So choose amazing, positive, like-minded friends and company. Choose the best spouse – a partner who can not only cheer you on but who can also shake you out of your ego when you are getting too conceited. Choose amazing collaborators and colleagues, work with the best craftsmen and artisans and study under the wisest teachers and leaders.
Every single individual that you allow in to your life has to add value to your being. And likewise, we should give to the people around us more than we receive. Avoid anyone who is too pessimistic, or calculative or self-absorbed – they will just drain all your energy!
(Notice that I did not include family. Our family members are special as God has chosen them to be our family for a reason. Cherish and serve our family more than anyone else in this world, especially our Parents!)
Stellar Sportsmanship + Consistency = True Champions
It doesn’t matter if you are the top footballer in the world and getting at least £20,000 / week and having $5 million in endorsements. If you play dirty, or spout vulgarities, or bite your opponents, you will be sent off or be banned from the game. How will you be a Champion when you can’t even play? Similarly, if our characteristic sucks and we are just plain mean to the people around us, it doesn’t matter if we make big bucks when at the end of the day we have no one we can share the joy and “success” with.
Consistency is another vital factor. Ive seen so many games where a team will be leading by 2-0 by the end of the first half, but because they got complacent, their opponentns can very easily turn the table and steal their lead by 3-2. Also, do you know that only if a team/country has won the World Cup thrice would they be able to keep the Cup for good? There has been 19 World Cups held so far, but there is only one World Cup Trophy (it belongs to Brazil) in the world! This shows that you not only have to win, but you have to win consistently to keep the prize, to be Champions!
In life, we got to be consistent too. Consistency is key. This always reminds me of my favourite Hadith where Rasulullah (peace be upn him) said: “The deeds most loved by Allah SWT are those done regularly, even if they are small”. (Bukhari/Muslim)
So here’s a quick re-cap: Change is the only constant so don’t be too complacent or too dejected. Stop chasing unnecessary things, aim to score at bigger, more important things in life instead. Always work and play hard, choose the best players to be on your team and be super nice and consistent!