When the teams and their supporters gathered in France at the start of Euro 2016, there was only one destination everybody had in mind – Paris, for the final.
Among the supporters of some of the ‘big’ teams, expectations sometimes border on a sense of entitlement.
Or the ‘unsportsmanlike’ behaviour of the opposing team (as though playing better qualifies somehow as cheating).
Or they call for the ‘useless’ or ‘unskilled’ team to be sacked and their wages spent on something more worthwhile (I’m paraphrasing here).
And then there was Wales, the underdog team who have doggedly played on, year after year, despite not having qualified for a major tournament since 1958.
Their loyal fans were delighted simply that they had qualified, and had followed them to France just to enjoy that achievement for its own sake.
The Welsh supporters love their team unconditionally, and have stood by them through the years, because they are the national team, they belong to Wales – and that is enough.
Conditioned, perhaps, to have low expectations, they took it one match at a time, and celebrated each win as a triumph in itself, never looking any further ahead than the next step on the journey.
When they reached the semi finals maybe some began to get their hopes up, but I suspect most will have refused the temptation, for fear of inviting a jinx to the party.
Anyway, their team had already achieved so much more than anyone ever expected. Why look for more?
What was the fans’ reaction? They cheered their team with pride, for the efforts they had made that had enabled them to get this far.
It was more than enough. One fan said it didn’t matter that the Welsh team weren’t going to Paris, because they were going home to Cardiff as heroes.
But why would they be heroes when they hadn’t won the final, hadn’t even reached it?
They had played to the best of their ability, and pushed themselves as far as they could. Their fans would not, could not, ask for more.
Heroism lies in the doing, in the efforts made to reach a difficult (or dangerous) objective.
We could all learn something from the Welsh football supporters.
Some destinations, though are better than others. Cardiff may not be Paris, but it isn’t Holland, either.
I for one would much rather find myself in a place that celebrates effort, and achievements of any size or magnitude, big or small, that comes from doing the best you can with what you’ve got, than in a place that expects, requires, perfection, and calls for anyone who fails to meet this expectation to be discarded.
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