Nathan (not his real name)
a young writer from India
Maybe Failure Isn't That Bad
This isn't your typical story where the protagonist manages to win despite the odds being stacked up against him. This is my story. This is a story of failure. But most importantly, this is a story of how I got back up after learning from my mistakes.
I hail from the coastal state of Kerala in India. I love playing football. I grew up being inspired by the rise of Cristiano Ronaldo, and his winning mentality is something I’ve adopted in my life.
I was selected to represent our state in the national level U-16 tournament after having a stellar tournament at the state level. I was ecstatic. Though I was in no way the best player my state had to offer, I made it through sheer determination and hard work. Soon the elation faded as the sheer enormity of what I was about to encounter set in.
Finally, after two months of solid practice, the national games started. We reached the camp three days before the games officially started. We explored our new surroundings and found the remaining states had also sent the best they could offer. After each match, we got a better idea of what to expect from the next. Our team was not the strongest, but we were quick-witted and fast, and we made it to the finals.
Sleep evaded me the night before the finals. Sometimes I look back and think about how even though we were young, we kept our pride aside and grudgingly accepted the fact that our opponents were better than us in terms of strength as well as speed. We agreed that the best game plan was to focus on defence, to not let them score, and to attack when their guard was down.
I got ready for the match, excited at the prospect of getting to play against one of the best teams in the U-16 level that the country had to offer. To our benefit, they were a little tired, having played a match the day before, but we were in full form. I was the left-winger, but since we were all playing defensively, I didn't have much to do in terms of attacking.
Half time came and went. Ten minutes into the second half, they played a classy passing move, starting from the defence, into the midfield, out into their right-winger, who put in a teasing cross for their striker to head home. 1-0.
However, we had considered the possibility of them scoring first. Since we played a defensive game, we didn’t exert ourselves as much as the other team did. So, we started attacking aggressively until they caved in. After a passage of play, our striker took a shot which was saved by the keeper. The save wasn’t perfect, though. The ball fell towards me, and I had the easy task of guiding the ball into an empty net. I felt giddy. I had scored a goal against one of the best teams in the country!
After scoring that goal, we were optimistic that we could win the match. We went back to playing defence and successfully thwarted their attempt to score further. The game ended in a tie, and it went to extra time. No one managed to score, and we finally got to the penalty shootouts. Five players from each team got the chance to shoot, and I was among the five from my team.
A few goals and saves ensued. I got the chance to take the 5th penalty for our team. The score was 3-2 in their favour. The shootout could continue only if I scored. If I didn't, we’d lose. I felt everyone’s eyes on me. The neutrals were supporting us as we were the underdogs. The referee blew the whistle. I took a deep breath, aimed, and kicked the ball down the middle, hoping the keeper would dive sideways.
The shot went straight at the keeper, who didn’t move a muscle.
It was over. We had lost.
I had been our team's last hope, and I had let them down. For me, it felt like the end of the world. I didn't leave with the rest of the team because I was too embarrassed to face them. My teammates left me to cope alone for some time and then came for me.
When the dust settled, I realised how far I had come. From being just another rookie in a school team to scoring for my state in the finals, I had been through a lot. Even if I missed the penalty, that match was still my best performance to date. All I could do at that point was to learn from my mistakes and keep moving forward, to be a better version of myself.
Even though I pursued academics as a career option, the lessons that I learned from that fateful day will stay with me throughout my lifetime. I learnt that all our wishes won’t be granted, and that’s fine. Because if they were, they wouldn’t even be wishes anymore!
All we can do is keep practising and work smart and hard, hoping to make it one day. Even if we don't achieve it now, it doesn't mean we never will. We win some, we lose some. And that’s life.
At times we all feel alone, but those feelings never last forever.
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