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27.10.2004
Winning vs Losing

Bolton - Crystal Palace 1-0
Crystal Palace - West Bromwich 3-0

I want to win. It is like a drug. I want it again and again, I could never get enough of it. The feeling of it is something between the day of graduation, drunken laugh, your first kiss and Jerry Springer show: it is mad, un-describable and over-exaggerated joy. Leaving the pitch after victorious West Bromwich game, I feel Iím walking on the top of the world. In reality my feet are still deep in the relegation battle but at that moment I can only see weíre not far from the place in Europe.

Hiroshima! That is how I feel after a lost game. I know Iím out of order saying this because a game of football canít be compared to such a massive and controversial tragedy. It is not a real loss if one blond head goes cloudy and full of momentary sadness. However I have intentionally over-exaggerated defeat to feel like personal nuclear bomb so I would go even further avoiding it. I know Iím so wrong in this but I canít help it. Competing is an obsession that brings the devil out of me. I have made defeat to feel very unbearable to myself.

I had to pick this subject and try to describe these feelings because supporters have often questioned do players really care. I can tell yes we do, you couldnít be in this profession if you didnít. You have learned to put a brave face on but it always hurts. You have to live with that result until the next game. In my past I have sometimes had to leave my car to the stadium because I was too scared to drive it after defeat. Divide range of feelings from winning to loosing and competing are the essence of everyday in this profession. Youth, Sunday league and park games are different story. In there you can also have an element of having a laugh, keeping fit, socialising and expressing yourself. As professional athlete you donít get paid of being fit or amusing yourself, you get paid for producing results.

Every player and supporter ultimately has shown up to the game in their quest to win. It is the result-based extreme emotions that make sports so fascinating. You donít need to be a rocket scientist to understand the joy in people after our win on Saturday. At that moment, there seem to be no worries in South East London. Every Eagle is filled with joy that makes him feel so powerful and warm. He feels he have so many friends and his wife looks particularly beautiful that night. He is looking forward for tomorrows work so he can go through the scores with his colleagues who took out most of his sorrow after defeat to Bolton the other week. Who wouldnít like winning, no matter how big or small it is? Itís human nature. You rather win even with a dodgy game than are well performed losers.

Obviously being newly promoted side in the big league, it just doesnít happen often enough, especially in the beginning. You might feel that you are competing well but still you donít get the results. The Premiership sides and players know how to produce results even at off days. That is the biggest lesson we have learned so far this season. We havenít been able to get results we deserve or donít deserve, we have had to be well worth every point we have got. How is Arsenal being able to be unbeaten so long at this level I canít understand? Of course they are excellent side with all the qualities and skills of football. But still their biggest strength must be the winning culture they have built in there. They have somehow mastered winning.

Arsenal, Roy Keane, Thierry Henry, Sami Hyypiš, Oliver Kahn, Iain DowieÖ On top of my head these I consider winners who have that something in them. Defining what is that quality and mentality is harder. Who is a winner? The one that outscores an opponent? The one that gets closest to his potential? The one who plays well in big games and scores important goals? The one who only plays to win? Probably all of them in some ways. It would be easy to look only stats and point out players that have won most. Stats donít lie. There can be seen lots of consistencies and facts about players and teams that are more likely to win. Often it is not the entertainers that are most effective, ask Real Madrid.

One of the greatest basketball coaches of all time John Wooden has said about winning, that the idea is not trying to outscore the opponent but trying to get closest to your potential each time. In that way you have best chance to win and in any way you have won yourself. There is often talk about this winning yourself Ėthing. I understand and can relate to that but personally this suits me like binoculars to a moose. If I get beaten all the time, I simply canít get any satisfaction of my job. I have to compete against others to measure my own achievements. I always win when I play chess against myself. It doesnít give me much pleasure though.

It canít be a coincidence that Roy Keane raises his game every time it matters the most and Thierry Henry is there to score that winning goal. I havenít won enough to explain these things or winning so from interviews of successful sportsmen, books of how to rule the world and facts about winners I found these definitions for a winner.

A winner is a player, who wants, dares and knows how to compete. He doesnít accept defeat and is ready to do as much as work there is to come out as a winner. He knows that he canít win every time, but he always has the belief. His has bouncebackability. After a defeat he wants to win even more. Winning is a mental state, not a physical skill or a trick. A winner is not necessary interested having the most noticeable role, he is happy with a role that helps his team to win. He might not be the most talented but he is the most committed. He is annoyingly stubborn and persistent. He adapts to the way of game and finds the right ways to give himself an edge. He has no fear. He looks like he is playing for a bigger cause. He has eye of the tiger. He only plays to win. And he definitely doesnít watch Jerry Springer show!


This time I recommend:
1. Nandos
- medium spicy chicken wing has just got its place in my Food Hall of Fame

I do not recommend:
1. Jerry Springer -show
- seriously.. do I even need to explain why!
2. Promising someone to put any stupid word of his into your article
- how on earth can someone feel Hiroshima!

Akihito


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