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School of sport: MAN UNITED IN GLORY

Sport
Naturally, all sportsmen crave glory and for the most part they will only see it in the trophies gained or the titles won. The glory is in the winning, they believe; there is no glory in defeat for most. Losing finalists find it hard to accept, being so close and yet not having the victory; in such moments they certainly do feel like they are walking alone. Glory is found on the winner’s podium with the confetti showering down and the music blaring.

BY TIM MIDDLETON FOOTBALL fans love to air their voices loudly during matches and many clubs have their own special songs or chants. Supporters of the relevant clubs will recognise which clubs ‘own’ as their own the following songs: ‘Blue is the Colour’, ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ and ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’. Two others stand out even more, world-wide: the ever-touching ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and ‘Glory, Glory, Man United’.

Naturally, all sportsmen crave glory and for the most part they will only see it in the trophies gained or the titles won. The glory is in the winning, they believe; there is no glory in defeat for most. Losing finalists find it hard to accept, being so close and yet not having the victory; in such moments they certainly do feel like they are walking alone. Glory is found on the winner’s podium with the confetti showering down and the music blaring.

It is interesting that in many of the Whoever’s Got Talent shows that are popular around the world, the greatest glory, the highest honour, the widest recognition, the standing ovations, has often gone not so much to the ones with incredible voices or other talents but rather to those who have overcome enormous odds to be where they are and yet who remain humble and gracious – the man who was incarcerated for a crime he did not commit, the man who lost his wife in a helicopter crash, the girl with a stammer, the girl who is dying, the autistic young man and many more.

The honour is shown through the standing ovation and the tears that flow, far more than in the contracts to be offered and the competitions to be won. The glory for them is simply being able to stand and perform.

The honour and the glory that we give should be recognised more in an individual’s character than in their achievements. Honour should be given to those who display courage and bravery in tough situations. Honour is gained in humility, and that is developed when perspective is found.

Eric Liddell, the Scottish Olympic champion in the 400 metres back in 1924, often drew attention to the fact that “Over the gate of Pennsylvania University are inscribed these words, ‘In the dust of defeat as well as in the laurels of victory there is a glory to be found if one has done his best’.”

He was a man who had received the laurels of victory but he understood that such laurels meant nothing in the greater scheme of things. We do not need the world’s adulation in order to receive the glory; we just need to do our best, for our best may well have required us to overcome incredible odds.

Our own best may come in the course of defeat. We may well therefore have lost the match but with our limitations performed incredibly well during it; there is great honour and glory in that. The opponents may have had to perform better than they have had to do before in order to win, so their glory was in doing their best too. There is no glory or honour to be found, however, through cheating or going beyond the realms of fair play. So, the team that wins may not be due any honour or glory while the team that has lost may be the ones to receive rightly the glory and honour.

What we may not have discovered yet is that we will actually find glory when we deflect glory to others. Equally we may discover that we will receive honour when we do not seek it, for its own sake. The real glory will be given when both sets of fans, not just the biased supporters, rise and applaud the team, through mutual and common (not grudging) consent – when we have man united with man in recognising quality and values.

The true glory will also come when it is found to last forever, not simply for a season, an afternoon, a moment. Greater glory will be found in those who acknowledge the opponent had played an outstanding game in winning the match. These are the lessons we need to be teaching our youngsters. We need to help them find true, lasting honour.

At the end of the day (or rather the match), it is not so much glory that we should seek but honour. That is where glory is to be found. Perhaps the only true glory will come when man (as in mankind) is united in its desire and commitment to live and compete peacefully, respectfully, positively, fully with all others – even those supporting other football teams. Man united with man will bring glory!

Tim Middleton is a former international hockey player and headmaster, currently serving as the Executive Director of the Association of Trust Schools Email: ceo@atschisz.co.zw

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