I’m probably a few days late on this, but yesterday, as I discussed it with some of my colleagues, I realised that this was my takeaway from World Cup 2014. This is what I’ll remember in years to come. Yes, the exhilarating German victory has been etched forever in my memory – making it the best World Cup I’ve ever watched (I started watching football in the early 90s, exactly when Germany stopped winning. And if you read my previous post, you’ll know that I spent the next 20 years waiting to see Germany win).
But the day after Germany’s ruthless demolition of Brazil in the semifinal, I read somewhere that after taking a 5-0 lead, the Germans actually made a pledge at half-time, to not humiliate the hosts. Yes, they did. Mats Hummels revealed this at the post-match press conference.
“We just made it clear that we had to stay focused and not try to humiliate them,” he said. “You have to show the opponent respect and it was very important that we did this and didn’t try to show some magic or something like this.”
Isn’t that such an admirable display of sportsmanship? Honestly, that scoreline could have been 10-nil or something. For me, they had already won the World Cup with this gesture. So proud of this wonderful, champion team. (Yes, I know non-Germans are not allowed to be ‘proud’ of the German team, but again, please refer to previous post).
That just got me thinking about some of the other wonderful acts of sportsmanship that I remember off the top of my head. Being a tennis obsessor, naturally the first one that comes to mind is Andy Roddick’s suicidal act of sportsmanship at the 2005 Rome Masters. He had a triple match point in the final set, when Fernando Verdasco double-faulted and basically, lost the match. Roddick just needed to walk to the net and shake hands. But no, his integrity didn’t allow that. What he did instead was dispute the call (yes, the one that was in his favour!) and said the serve was in. Verdasco then went onto win the point and the match. And I know its not ‘better to win hearts than to win ugly’ but thats how it was for Andy Roddick. He won few titles but his fame belied his achievements (or lack thereof).
Another one that comes to mind is from the cricket field. Sydney, 2008. And believe it or not, it was Ricky Ponting who showed rare sportsmanship. I remember Rahul Dravid had edged straight to Punter in the slips and was given out. Amidst the celebrations, Ponting suddenly had a case of conscience and said he hadn’t quite latched on and that the ball had grazed the ground. Dravid returned to the crease and the entire Indian subcontinent was left bewildered, mouths agape.
I know there’s also that Trent Bridge Test in 2011 when MSD recalled Ian Bell. But that was apparently after Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower went to the Indian dressing room and requested Dhoni to do so. And he did, which is to be lauded, I suppose. But its not up there for me, among the best ones.
PS: I’m sure there are countless moments involving Stefan Edberg but therefore it is difficult to remember a single one. Anyone want to remind me?