Tuesday, February 03, 2004

The Wisdom of Football

The Wisdom of Football

I used to play a lot of football when I was a teenager. I started playing rather late compared to some of my friends but I think I picked up the game better than many of them because I bothered to learn the right techniques from the beginning. It might sound strange but I actually picked up football from books!

I read a book on the elements of soccer by the legendary Pele and one by former Manchester United star George Best. Through these books I learned how to kick the ball correctly, something which I realised many of my peers did not bother to learn. As a result I became a better footballer than many of them.

I used to play a lot as a left-winger or striker; if I am still playing today, my heroes, I think would be Chelsea's Damien Duff and Liverpool's Harry Kewell. I was a very left-footed player; I enjoyed beating defenders on the flank and crossing the ball, often scoring regularly too.

To score goals consistently, a striker must have the uncanny ability to be at the right place at the right time. How does one achieve that? I realised, a great deal of that has to do with your ability to anticipate how the ball is going to be played by your team-mates and where it is most likely to fall. A striker must also time his runs perfectly so that he is not caught offside. A lot of information have to be computed in an instant: the flight of the ball, the position of your team-mates, the distance of the nearest defender.

In other words, a good striker knows how to "feel" the game, and choose the best position and adjust the timing of his runs precisely so that he is always at the right place at the right time. Everything must happen instinctively as there is no time to think or calculate. At every instance, there is a perfect move.

A man of wisdom is like a good striker. He must be able to "feel" the situation that he finds himself in and be able to choose the best course of action. Wisdom is instinctive intelligence and it is honed through years of experience. One of the things I realised from all the spiritual books that I've read is that wisdom is inherent within us: If we know how to clear our minds of doubts, fears or other other unwholesome intentions, we will naturally know what's right.

The purpose of meditation and prayer is to anchor ourselves back to our inner core and let our natural divine wisdom shine through. A striker suffers from lack of form when he is wrecked by self-doubt or when he is over-anxious to score. In that state of mind, he cannot feel the game and be at the right place at the right time. He must relax, and immerse himself into the flow of the game.

Like a good striker, we must know how to extract ourselves from the turmoil that seizes our mind sometimes when we are embroiled in our everyday interactions with the world. Sometimes life's situations are so complex that there is no way we can "figure out" a right course of action. The person who is anchored to his divine self would instinctively know what is the best thing to do. We make mistakes because we are driven by lust, greed or fear--in other words, when we are not playing our natural game.

At any point in the game of life, there's one right move or position that will maximize our scoring chances. We must tap into that inner wisdom of ours to find out what is that best move. Trace the motive of your actions. If what you do is deeply sincere and is guided by conscience, then you are playing your so-called natural game. Do not worry, goal-scoring chances will inevitably come.

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