Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Football: A time to mope

Quite downcast
It is the strangest feeling and emotion that words cannot really be found to express. That low, dark, uncommitted and seemingly resigned state of being that holds you down like you’re beneath the water for longer than you could hold your breath until some reflex lets you bob your head out for a death-defying gulp of air and whatever it might contain.
It was the same feeling I had exactly 8 years ago today when I watched the World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands, in Spain of all places. I was on holiday in Gran Canaria at the time. I found a bar of fellow Hollanders and the football match at one time looked like a wrestling or mixed martial arts match, with my people from the Netherlands playing a game I never expected of them. We lost.
As the Spaniards rejoiced in their conquering of the world of football, I took a slow, sullen, sad stroll back to my hotel, unable to muster a smile or respond to the revelry that surrounded me. That night, I went to bed and dreamt away my sorrows and relapsed back into holiday mode for the nine days left of it.
Each player a team
Today, like any other time England plays, I knew I could not watch the match, just as I can hardly watch Nigeria play. The tension is just too high for me. I was feeling exhausted by the thought of it at noon. I probably should have acted as if I had no dog in this game for the Netherlands were not in it and I had for the last two World Cups donned my orange colours instead of those of my birth country or the country of my heritage.
Nigeria visited the World Cup and basically took away the trophy for the best kit, their performance was all hype and no goals. Eleven brilliant players playing as eleven amazing teams. Which brings to mind the assessment of one foreign coach about Nigeria. They are so disorganised that the disorganisation will upset structured and organised teams, by that alone, they are able to exploit and win games.
The death knell of Nigeria’s foray was already sounded by Croatia in their first match, now, it is Croatia again who have put a stop to that English anthem that I had dreaded would not come true.
Three lions should take a nap
When England sent Sweden home, I curbed my enthusiasm, when everyone including the Queen’s Guard, yes them, decided to play the Three Lions anthem in front of Buckingham Palace on Saturday evening as I tried to miss the excitement of it all by boarding a train for a 2-hour journey.
For all intents and purposes, the Three Lions song, released for Euro 1996 is a good rallying song, but it is almost too hubristic for my liking. To my mind, it is the worst anthem to have if you have not already won the competition for which it is being sung. This for the simple reason that if we fall short, others would find the means to ridicule us beyond the utterly risible and that is never a comfortable place to be.
I would rather I was singing Football’s Coming Home after the England Team captain has his or her mitts on the trophy. Then, we can celebrate and those waiting to make fun of us if we faltered would have no other choice than to join in our celebrations.
Just what I feared
I returned home from work and went to bed, having a few waking moments to check the live text review of the match between Croatia and England, we scored early but never improved on that scoreline, whilst Croatia equalised and then scored the winning goal in the second half of extra time, the god of miraculous football turnaround having gone to sleep, time seeped away like sand emptying to the force of gravity in an hourglass.
We have only pride to play for in the third-place match against a Belgium who have already trounced us once in the final match of the group stage.
It’s nope for us
It is quite likely that France would lift the cup, but Croatia are not pushovers, they can quite easily become the surprise dark horse of this tournament that left Germany, Argentina, Spain, Portugal and Brazil as has-beens. My money was on Belgium, or rather, my hunch was on Belgium, my money stayed in my pocket.
If I had any consolation, England has won the World Cup in my lifetime, albeit, I was only 7 months old. I think this young England team came well beyond our expectations, their temperamental was even, level-headed and focused. They might soon bring a trophy home. There is hope and there is scope, we would cope, given a moment to mope.


Thursday, 5 July 2018

Thought Picnic: Exercising the art of the unflappable

When they project
One morning last week, I woke up to find a message on one of my social media profiles from someone who took exception to appearances on my profile.
What people feel about the way I look or choose to present myself is left to them, I cannot deny them the need to be silent, to compliment or to castigate.
On the point of silence, I cannot read minds, so it does not bother me. When I am complimented, I hope I have the grace, gratitude and courtesy to acknowledge it without becoming disagreeable. Then also, I try not to be suspicious as to consider every compliment as a means for some to inveigle their way into my affections and confidences. Who knows motives and maybe there is no motive at all apart from appreciation.
When they abuse
However, when a complete stranger is overwrought to the point that they have to castigate me rather than hold their peace, you have to wonder what they are really up to. In most cases, I have ignored them and where the facility is available, I block them.
The one last week went a bit further than was necessary that I was compelled to react. When people come at you out of the blue, I default to seeing it as a projection of themselves rather than a reflection of myself.
I responded, “Is that a cheap shot at me to make you feel good about yourself? I don’t care for what you think. Go and find someone else to project your negativity on.”
He responded with derision and then addressing me as a bozo, he ordered me not to respond again. I was having none of it. I responded, “I don’t know what side of the bed you got off on, but just because you are frustrated and probably unloved, should not have to make me a target of your ire. Then, I was a sleeping dog that you have kicked, you can’t now control the narrative.”
When they repent
I expected him to go away. He didn’t, in fact, I was surprised at his response. “I have just read over what I posted to you,” he said, “I’m sorry, it was nasty and rude, I apologise.”
To which, I responded. “I accept your apology. Have a nice day.” Then he went on about how sorry and contrite he was, he thought I was a nice guy and he hoped I would not close him down after what happened.
To that, I had no further responses, for whilst I have made acquaintances and friends after some conflict, I do not necessarily see that as the best avenue for cultivating friendships. Conflict, argument and disagreement whilst respecting each other courteously and nicely, I can abide. When you go down the line of abuse, you have burnt your bridges before you have had the opportunity to cross them.
When you don’t care anymore
More poignantly, the moral tale behind all this is to know when people are projecting their negativity and by that, refuse to allow that to define you, confuse you, aggrieve you and rile you to the point that they can take advantage of your composure and sense of wellbeing.
As I have written before, when I have faced racial abuse, I have mostly seen it as an opportunity to educate and not take offence. I have found that the same works for when you are abused or something negative is said about you.
Then, when a respected mentor inadvertently suggested I was failing to show an example, I simply said, that was just part of my failings. He meant the opposite, but when you have reached the point where you are not driven by the need to please and you are comfortable in your own skin, you will be unflappable in the face of anything they throw your way.