When negative experiences make you a stronger person: Learning from the Spanish national football team

So the topic of learning from hardship and stressful situations has been on my mind often in the last year or so, and this week, my randomly selective memory recalled vividly the story of the Spanish national football team.

The Spaniards have historically been perennial underachievers in international football. For a country that boasted and still boasts some of the biggest names in international football and two of the world’s biggest (if not outright biggest) football establishments in Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, the national team used to go into tournaments with plenty of promise, but fail to deliver.

Going into their second-round clash in Hanover, the Spaniards had won their group game with relative ease, brushing aside Ukraine, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. The team, however, lost to a Zidane inspired France team after conceding two late goals. This was a harsh defeat for the young La Rojas, but it paved the way for unprecedented future success. The team’s lack of inexperience was evident for all to see.

That team of youngsters learned their lessons and from the individual and collective mistakes, and they went on to win the next three major tournaments (2008 and 2012 European Championships and the 2010 World Cup) with a style that redefined conceptions and football tactics till today.

What changed? Well, various factors. The players gradually built more belief in themselves, young players like Xabi Alonso, Cesc Fabregas, Iniesta, Xavi, Iker Casillas, Ramos and so on were maturing into some of the best players worldwide in their respective positions, FC Barcelona’s continental revival, which started in 2006 with a Champions League win, but more importantly is that the team finally started learning from experiences.

Now we cannot say that the team would not have gone on to dominate world football if they beat Les Blues and then lost to the World Cup holders Brazil in the next round, but harsh situations breed stronger characters and personalities. What is also worth noting is that the (almost) same Spanish team unexpectedly lost its first round game at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa to Switzerland, only to bounce back and win six games in a row and be crowned world champions for the first time in their history.

Moral of the story is if life knocks you down and you struggle with work, life, finances, friends, family etc. then remember that a smooth sea never made a smooth sailer.

Viva Espana!

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