2014 World Cup: The meaning of competition
The most watched sporting event globally is the FIFA World Cup. Millions, if not billions of us are glued to this event where 32 teams vie for the championship. Soccer (football) is often called “the beautiful game”; sometimes it really is beautiful and sometimes it isn’t.
Sometimes competition draws out the best in people, and sometimes it draws out the worst. What is the difference?
The image that will stand out to me in the 2014 World Cup took place in the first round. Team USA was playing Ghana.
American Jermaine Jones took down Sulley Muntari, kicking him in the ear. Muntari retaliated and attacked Jones.
Things could have turned ugly, Muntari could have been given a red card and Ghana would have to play the rest of the game shorthanded and without one of its best players. What Jones did next was extraordinary.
While I don’t know exactly what he said, I could see from the body language that he was calming Muntari and acknowledging that he too had done wrong.
The two put their arms around each other and spoke to the referee, who wisely did not give out a penalty. In the end, Team USA won, but more importantly, sportsmanship prevailed and it was truly a beautiful game.
What Jermaine Jones demonstrated was an understanding of the meaning of competition. It does not mean that the other team loses, it means that we have done our very best, and that in the end the scoreboard agrees.
There are many more ways to win, however, than outscoring another team. True competitors understand this. True competitors see the big picture.
Though I am not a fan of Team USA, I have to admit that I was impressed by their organization beyond Jones’s demonstration of sportsmanship. Their coach is the great Jrgen Klinsmann, former star player of the 1990 World Cup Champion German national team.
By watching his team play, it is clear that Klinsmann understands that being a champion means that you do your very best to prepare for competition, you do your very best to win, and you always respect your opponent.
Sometimes the result of the game will be a win on the scoreboard, and sometimes it will simply result in the victory of valuable lessons learned.
Team USA did not make it past the round of 16; but, the entire world has taken notice. Klinsmann thinks like a champion and it is only a matter of time until the scoreboard agrees.
In the world of education, we often see competition as a bad thing. That is simply because we do not understand the true meaning of the word.
Competition is a beautiful thing when it not only inspires us on the journey to become our very best, but it also inspires us to celebrate the greatness in each other. When this happens, life itself becomes “the beautiful game”.