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One Game At A Time

What will be our invictus?


There’s nothing like a sports film to make your lazy Saturday afternoon. After a barrage of NBA games, baseball spring training, football highlight shows and assorted golf tournaments, you welcome the change of pace of a sports movie, even if it’s a comedy or a distortion of reality.
But not Invictus, the 2009 Clint Eastwood-directed picture on the 1995 World Cup of Rugby victory of South Africa.
I had already seen it but there’s something about a good movie being reshown on HBO or Star Movies that makes you watch. You may even have the DVD of a favorite film, but still you watch on TV when you chance upon it.
Invictus is the real-life story of how Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) and rugby teamed up to build a nation torn apart by years of apartheid or the separation of white and blacks.
Mandela had just been elected president after nearly three decades in prison. Foremost on his agenda was to build the country and to tear away the fences of apartheid.
He found rugby as his galvanizer, that bone-crunching, exhausting sport that looks like it has no rules but is actually quite structured. It didn’t matter if most of the blacks despised the sport because it was the favorite of the whites.
Mandela’s point was that South Africa was hosting the sport’s world cup and there was a golden opportunity to forgive and unite.
Like a fairy tale, South Africa goes on to win the championship despite the strength of the field. The home team had the benefit of cheering crowds, not just the 62,000 in the stadium but the millions who followed the team on TV throughout the country.
Invictus, which is Latin for undefeated, was the William Earnest Henley poem that Mandela kept close to his heart during his difficult prison days. He shared it with Francois Pienaar, the captain of the team (played by Matt Damon) to help inspire the team.
What is our Philippine sports invictus?
Manny Pacquiao and the other Filipino champions do it for us when they climb the ring. No matter how fleeting their performance is, it is inspiring whenever a Filipino claims another world title.
Paeng Nepomuceno does this as well and so do Efren Reyes and the other billiards masters.
But what about the other sports?
Our athletes and sports teams face many adversities and challenges, more so now when our opponents are spending enormous amounts for training and overseas exposure.
The London Olympics is just around the corner and again we will see how difficult it is to win that elusive gold medal.
But rather than be intimidated by everything we don’t have, disillusioned by the power struggles of sports officials or discouraged by our cultural shortcomings, we should find inspiration from very deep within our selves.
As the poem so eloquently states in its last two lines “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul,” it’s up to us to do well and serve as inspirations for the rest of the country.
Nelson Mandela knew that by heart.

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