Delusions of sporting grandeur


Fiery support: Fans of PSV Eindhoven celebrate winning the Dutch Championship in the Netherlands last week. Fans in many European leagues are so passionate about their teams that most can get violent if their teams under perform. Mourinho (below) did not make it as a player but as a coach he is one of the most successful around.

Non-sports people always ask me, why are we sports fans so crazy? Why do we shout and scream at the TV when our team is not winning? Why do we post such strong comments on social media and criticise players and coaches like we are the experts? Why are we so negative?

My answer is that sports, or our favourite sport, is our passion.

Once upon a time, every sports fan dreamt of becoming the superstar athlete that scored the winning goal or won multiple gold medals at the Olympics.

But the harsh reality is most of us do not get to live out our dreams because we are not good enough.

To play in the Barclays Premier League or to become an Olympic medallist is something that requires great talent. Mostly great physical talent, good hand-to-eye coordination, lungs as big as basketballs, speed, strength, stamina, agility, flexibility, and size — and the list goes on.

Yes, we need the right temperament and that killer instinct, which many people have, but not everybody.

There is also the required physical attributes to succeed at the highest levels of sport.

When we think of sportsmen, we usually have an image of a person who is tall, has a muscular frame, a permanent tan because he is always in the sun training and is just basically a fit, athletic person.

Some sports like gymnastics do not fit this description, but regardless of the sport, the athlete is super fit and is constantly training, preparing himself for the next big match or tournament.

That is why sometimes I laugh at some of my friends who constantly tell me: “If I did not get injured or if my parents did not stop me, I could have become a pro sportsman.”

They tell me this story as they sip on their fifth teh tarik, smoking their umpteenth cigarette and frankly, their frame does not suggest they were much of an athlete when they were young.

Not many athletes will admit that they were not good enough to succeed at the highest level. I, on the other hand, will tell you straight to your face, I was an ordinary athlete but had the potential to become a decent coach.

Jose Mourinho will be the first to admit that he was a poor footballer in his day, but he would also be the first to tell you that he is a great coach.

In the United States, there are around eight million students competing in high school athletics. Only 460,000 of them will compete at the college level. According to the NCAA, there are currently 541,054 high school basketball players. Only 3.4% will play in college and only 1.2% of college players will play in the NBA.

So the next time you see your sports-mad father, mother, brother, sister, uncle and friend screaming at the TV – just try and picture them as the athlete that is competing and shouting on the pitch; shouting to motivate his teammates to win the game. When sports fans watch their favourite team on TV, they subconsciously imagine that they are there competing with their team. That’s why before a game, some sports fans stand up and clap and chant like they are in the dressing room.

My first TV job was covering Italian football for Astro. That job reminded me how crazy, mad and passionate we sports fans are. Why are we all these things? Because we were the aspiring athlete once upon a time and some of us believe we are still that athlete on the pitch with the players.

We are also envious of the players competing. However, that is not a sports thing but more a human trait.

Malaysia is trying to be a sports country. From a social context, it’s not cool to be loud and competitive. But if it gets you the gold medal, then why not! What’s so cool about a gold medal, you might ask? Well, once you’re a winner, you can then say you were the best at something once.

Not many people can say: “I was the best in the world and I am still a champion.”

> Ben Ibrahim is a presenter with Foxsports Asia. He often tells people he has the second-best job in the world – the best job is being the athlete.

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