On Thursday 2nd of July, in the early hours of the morning, England were knocked out of another World Cup. The women’s football team lost their game against Japan to a stoppage time own goal scored by Laura Bassett.
Normally, in such situations, which must seem all too familiar to anyone who follows English sport, this is when the recriminations begin. The press is usually dominated by stories apportioning blame, of loosing mentalities and twitter hate campaigns. But this time, things have been completely different, as an article in The New York Times pointed out…
“It was a player’s worst nightmare. With seconds left Laura Bassett accidently kicked the ball into her own net. Bassett and many other England players were in tears. And the members of the sometimes vicious British news media sharpened their pens and offered… sympathy?”
It seems that this turn around in the traditional story ark of British sporting failure is due in small part to Mark Sampson, the England manager, who in his interview in the immediate aftermath praised his team, praised Laura Bassett and praised their performance and togetherness.
And he too deserves enormous praise.
Even when reeling in the disappointment of defeat, he turned away from the usual blaming of everyone else, the usual deflecting of responsibility and scapegoating officials and their bad decisions. Instead Mark Sampson continued to deliver a message of pride and togetherness, a message that was then continued by the players, both in interviews and on social media.
This message has now become the defining narrative of the team. Search for a story on England’s defeat in the semi-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 and you will most likely find a positive, celebratory story. Not of what has been lost, but what has been achieved.
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