As France took away the glorious FIFA Trophy to their homeland after 20 years, many hearts cried for Croatia as they had landed into the finals for the very first time. The main reason that the world supported Croatia was, France had the world’s best players, playing in the finest clubs across Europe while Croatia had maybe one or two. The match got over, the French won the trophy and now was the hardest part, to go back home and face the country. But, the Croatian team arrived back, landed in the capital of Zagreb where they were greeted by thousands of people who cheered and welcomed their heroes. They may not have won the trophy but they have definitely won the world’s hearts. It was their hard work and dedication that took them from 125th rank in 1998 to 2nd in 2018.
As a person who never watched football or took interest in the sport for that matter, my heart cheered for both the countries as we sat to watch the finals. Some angry, some happy and some sad, we shut down the TV, when reality hit us all. What would have happened if a similar match was lost by India in cricket? I imagined a mob outside the cricketers’ homes, effigies burning, slogans insulting the team, panel discussions on TV on the “state of Indian Cricket” with Mr. Arnab Goswami shouting on all the panellists, trolls on the internet, wives being targeted. This is not just imagination because these cases have happened: Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s effigies were burnt in 2007, Anushka Sharma’s effigies were burnt and she was trolled for allegedly impacting Virat Kohli’s performance in 2015. People go out of their way to stir violence and hatred over something as subjective as performance in a sport.
When was the last time we sat down to think that cricket, like any other sport, consists of people and these players whom we criticize so openly are mere mortals who learn and gain experience with every game they play? When have we thought that they work hard, every day without failing just so they can make every Indian’s heart beat go erratic every time they hit a six? When have we thought, that they long to hear us chant “Team India!” as a united voice in the stadiums because they get an instant boost of energy? They represent us and we discourage them as if they are a bin of trash. Whenever they win, we say our team is gold and when not, we find other excuses to dismiss them.
When there is an India v/s Pakistan match, both the nations act as if it’s their life at stake- if we cannot defeat them in a war we might as well defeat them in a game. This ridiculous attitude results in the rising of stakes immensely. People become kraantikaari in situations like these where they know they don’t have to move a muscle. If the country wins, amazing, Mera Bharat Mahaan. On the other hand, if it loses, they’ll sit behind the computers and troll the team at the behest of having the ‘freedom of expression’.
Now, when I compare both the situations, I can fairly conclude that our country doesn’t need more players, we have a fine team. What we do need is a support base. The Croatians stood by their team no matter what and accepted sport as a sport with a sportsman spirit. We must realize that winning and losing is a part of life and losing in a game against a country like Pakistan, given our strained relations is what I see as a silver lining. Losing will keep the team and our country grounded and give us hope to perform better for the next win. I feel keeping aside the cricket matches, we have supported other athletes such as Sakshi Malik on winning bronze at the Olympics , Hima Das on winning Gold at the junior athletics championship in the track event. When the captain of the Indian Football Team Sunil Chhetri posted a video on twitter inviting the country for their match against Kenya, our country came together and basked in their success.
So as a citizen of a very diverse India, I urge you to take a pledge to stand by our nation’s representatives no matter what the arena. Our one constructive criticism can boost their morale but a destructive one can scar them for life.
Picture Credits: The 12elfth Man