Wednesday, 5 July 2006

Is It All About Fate? - My World Cup 2006 Journal (Part 11)

What an unbearable disappointment it was to learn early this morning that the Germans were defeated by the Italians in the semi-final - and strictly speaking, the last three minutes of extra time.

How sad! Honestly, I was on the brink of tears when I learned the news. Losing two goals in the last two minutes of extra time were just too much to take over. It was comparable to an unexpected heart attack, much worse than failing to defend a crushing charge in the official struggle of 90 minutes. Everyone was caught by surprise. Everyone was then recklessly left in despair.

Championship was so close, and yet so far away.

Dreams of the fourth coronation for global mastery of football were slipped through the German fingers to the Italian hands. See what the scandalous Italians can achieve in their ultimate encounter with France led by Zinedine Zidane the Great - perhaps the greatest and most respected figure in French football history at least in 20 years.

While many out there might blame that the Germans lost because of a mysterious curse of fate that they would lose to no one but Italians, I believe the disappointing outcome was more attributable to the German players' lack of commitment to win as soon as they could and a prevailing absence of experience in international showdown. As much as the video highlights showed, they seemed to have hoped for a replica of their success in ousting the Argentines by penalty shootout. They seemed complacent to maintain a 0-0 draw in extra time. But they were proved terribly wrong.

The key takeaway here for not only the young German players but also for everyone, especially those in Hong Kong, is painfully obvious. Try your very best until the whistle blows. No one should indulge himself/herself in a false sense of security by his/her previous successes. A trick that plays out well at one point doesn't guarantee equally good harvests in the future. Circumstances change, and human beings are most vulnerable to countless variables in the environment and internal weaknesses. Every game is another game, and we have little choice but to adapt to each of them.

Nevertheless, it was undoubtedly emotional to see how German coach Jurgen Klinsmann whispered words of consolation to his young and grief-stricken players one by one, as if he were talking to his sobbing son who had failed the final examination. He was undoubtedly one of the greatest German football players in history, and he has just made himself one of the most respected coaches of his home country.

Friends who have been reading my two-cents about World Cup this year probably know too well that I am a fan of German football all these years, and more still, Jurgen Klinsmann himself. But I have good reasons for this. Just look at what the German coach said after his team's defeat by the scandal-haunted Italians:

"We're obviously very, very disappointed, no question about it, and that is to be expected when there is so much emotion involved and when it turns out that a dream has died. It really hurts when the other side delivers a knockout punch right before the final whistle - that takes some coming to terms with. Even we coaches need a moment to get over it. But I told the team straight after the match that they can be proud of themselves, that they've done so much and that they always pushed themselves to their limits. We showed that we can compete with the best teams in the world. We almost managed to score, and both teams had their chances, but we came up against an opponent who realised just before the end how to make the most of their opportunities and put the match out of our reach.

"Congratulations to Italy and to Marcello Lippi. All the best to them for the Final. What we now want to do is give a fantastic performance for our fans in the match for third place and play some good football. In any case, the tournament has already been a real success for us and we can feel very proud of ourselves. There are players in the squad who have incredible potential and who are getting noticed on an international level. In a short space of time, they have made incredible progress. We can look to the future with a lot of optimism, and many of our squad have made a name for themselves on the international scene during the tournament." (See here for the official English translation of the coaches' quotes.)

A humble and yet noble speech that showed respect for everyone, indeed. Klinsmann respects his players as much as his opponent, whoever it may be. He never forgets to show his respect and appreciation to those who play against his team, regardless of the result. Check out what he said after Germany's bitter victory over the Argentines and the Portuguese, and you shall see how a true gentleman comes through.

With the much-touted story of fate that Germans have yet to win over the Italians in international football tournaments still lingering in the air, I sincerely hope that the young German squad would not only learn from their coach the essential football skills and strategies that hopefully would restore and revitalise the football heritage of Germany, but, more importantly, the indispensable qualities of taking over glories and defeats like a gracious and dignified gentleman. Only with these qualities would this World Cup's slogan be lived up to - A Time to Make Friends.

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