As you may well have seen, FC Barcelona went into the 2nd leg of their recent Champions League tie with Paris St. Germain down 4-0 from the first leg. As good as they are, and even with You-Know-Who in their ranks, they were pretty much written off and given no chance of turning around the tie. After 88 minutes of the second leg they were even further out of it. Despite leading the 2nd leg 3-1, they still needed 3 goals to advance due to the complicated "away goals" rule in European competitions.
Then a funny thing happened........Barcelona scored again in that 88th minute to make it 4-1 on the night, and almost immediately 6 minutes of stoppage time went up on the boards. The home crowd roared them on, sensing that the unthinkable might yet happen. Strangely, the players didn't rush to grab the ball out of the net, or even sprint back to the halfway line. They knew PSG were a top, top team full of experienced international players. Surely they would see out the game with what was still a 2 goal cushion.
But history will tell us that they wouldn't. Barcelona did indeed score 2 more goals in stoppage time and it was they who ran around celebrating like crazy people at the end, not the team from Paris who had let a seemingly unassailable lead slip through their fingers.
Apart from savoring what was simply an amazing sporting occasion, the idea crept into my head that there was more to take from this game. The players of Barcelona never stopped playing their hardest, never stopped running, never gave up. Not only that, they didn't change tactics or panic. They believed that they would score enough goals to win the game. Their fans also never gave up, and never got on their players' backs. They supported them the whole way through because they saw the commitment from the players and that was enough for them.
As a youth soccer player, many things happen over the course of your time playing the game. Sometimes you question your own ability. Sometimes you wonder if this is really what you want to devote some much time, energy, and emotion to. Sometimes you question your coach, or your teammates. Sometimes you even question your passion for the game.
Did the Barcelona players go through some of those moments leading up to the game, knowing they were 4-0 down and hearing everyone say they had no chance? Did they question themselves during the actual game as the minutes ticked by? I am sure they did. But they didn't dwell on it. They didn't turn negative on each other, and they continued to focus on what they could control; their game plan, their determination to win every ball, their 1v1 battle against their immediate opponent. They gave us all a lesson in how to continue to do the right thing, with utmost conviction, and to never, ever give up.
If you do all this, are you guaranteed the success and utter jubilation that the Barca players felt at the final whistle? No, not at all. But you are guaranteed the inner feeling of complete satisfaction that you gave your absolute all, as an individual and as a teammate, and sometimes that is all that matters.......