Yesterday, we finally had traditional powers, Brazil & Belgium, bucking the trend of upsets at FIFA World Cup. While Brazil turned it around in the 2nd half, Belgium managed to do this with just 15 seconds left of the added time. This time, the heavyweights of the football world will remain in the shadows of memories.
What we recall would be the speedy Mexicans outpacing & outscoring the Germans, or Iceland defence, packed denser than an iceberg, puncturing the halo around Messi. But Argentina has a knack of getting into such spots. Remember 1990, when the defending champions lost to Cameroon in their opening fixture?
But this post is not about Argentina’s World Cup woes. It is about those unheralded teams & players who rose to glory during this once-in-four-years event. Like Cameroon, guided by an ageing sub, Roger Milla, reaching the quarters in 1990. That cup also saw the 2nd choice Argentine goalkeeper (another sub), Sergio Goycochea, stopping spot kicks like never before (or after) to take his team to the finals.
Not just 1990 (or 2018), but the history of the World Cup is replete with such upsets. Like North Korea defeating Italy in 1966. Or Nigeria reaching the knockout stage at its first appearance in 1994. And USA defeating England (unbelievable but its true) in 1950.
What makes these teams & players punch above their weight, defying al predictions & destroying reputations? The major reason, I believe, is an absence of any expectations. Devoid of pressure to perform, they attempt & deliver their best.
Then we have the lack of fear or risk. A star footballer is always worried about the injuries that he may pick up & plays it safe (a superstar footballer is more proactive, he feigns injuries!). But for these little known ones, playing at this stage compensates several times a few months of injury lay off. Thus, they go all out & give it their all which reflects in the result.
Next, is the joy they derive from the sport. They still are not the mercenaries of the sporting world, they play for pride, passion & fun. A missed chance is as good as a goal scored. Even in defeat, they are not heart broken.
Theirs is not a David vs Goliath tale. They shine briefly before the big boys take over. But in that short period, they leave behind indelible memories. And we love them for this. For want of a better term, let’s call them Backbenchers.
Another two weeks & the cup will be over. Or backbenchers will also disappear from the screens only to reappear in repeat telecasts four years hence as a build-up to the next World Cup.
But, worry not… If you have some understanding of Gujarati, you may as well go & watch the movie being released on 20th July – Backbenchers (brought to you by Purple Wings Productions). And relive those good old days!!
(And till the movie is released, you have the above vdo)
Pic source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_FIFA_World_Cup