Blog: Why ‘Underdogs’?
The dictionary defines an “underdog” as a participant in a competition who is expected to lose. This term was used to describe the two Mauritian participants who took part in the first match of beach volley against the unbeatable Brazilian team by the English commentator.
The word ‘underdog’ reminded me of the way in which Diego Garcia and the Chagos archipelago was emptied of real people, probably the only group in the republic of Mauritius that has a cultural identity, a mark of belonging to a motherhood and a unifying quest for recognition. We were without ships or means of conveyance to Diego Garcia. We were naïve because we were so impatient to obtain our independence that we did not even question or challenge the portrait the British had depicted of the faraway island. We did not know that which money and independence would have allowed us to know. Making the denial of independence optional to yielding the Chagos was a political ruse for the arrogant colonizer but an act of self transcending sacrifice for the Mauritian, specially when he thought Diego Garcia was populated with monkeys and coconut trees. It was found out soon that the British knew that families with roots deeply entrenched in insular traditions were leading a peaceful life in a world cut off from the rest of humanity.
The word ‘underdog’ is very telling. It should remind us that excellence has a price to pay to make an impact on competitions of the level of the Olympic Games. Our beach volley players obviously lacked the agility, the nimbleness and the training required at this level. Living in an island which some parts of the world claim still not to have heard of though we peak high on the league of successful nations in a turbulent galaxy of countries floundering in mismanagement and intestinal conflicts, demands hard work and industry to rival with the best countries that have a long lived tradition of professional practice of sports. Can we reach the level of performance of the British in football? No. Do we have the acumen, experience and agility of the Chinese in gymnastics? No. Can we rival countries like Italy and France when we have not yet developed a strategy to promote professionalism? We have just recently started with planning for the training of the elite abroad and with coaches endowed with years of international experience. The commentator was wrong to discourage participants from countries that are trying by all means to measure up against conventional winners or let’s reformulate this. Participants from countries like ours should receive the specialist’s attention from their country. They should devote a whole life to their passion, because for them standards of excellence denote a necessary superiority over their peers. Families should provide the space for such energy to express itself. A competitor at Olympic level is not made in one year or two. The tears in the eyes of a few Olympic winners on the podium and the reverberation of the national anthem caused them to have shivering lips and tremors of aching joy. These are the deserts of people who have sacrificed a whole life to the devotion of a particular skill. These sportsmen may belong to any social class. They need to continually raise their level of performance and find in themselves their own censor and judge. This is the spirit that has made a 16 year old swimming wizard from China. Assessors in London even suspected her of taking drugs for stamina, and they failed to prove it. This is again typical of the arrogance of those who have a long history of the superpower sovereignty for very often history has the knack of inflating the ego of some.
If we want to earn the respect of countries traditionally priding themselves over excellence, we must raise our own expectations of performance at local level. We are too complacent and very often we please ourselves with poor results and celebrate mediocrity. It is fortunate that this country has not banished competition. In fact competition should have pervaded other realms of experience so that we may not feel smug and content with spare effort.
Do we have enough sportsmen in this country to offer competition and allow really good sportsmen to emerge? Are we not functioning in a closed world because sports do not, as yet, enjoy the glow of academics?