Saturday, 6 April 2013


I usually accompany my kids on their sports trips, but it is very tiring, and there comes a time when we have to leave them to do what they should do on their own. Today was one of those days for me. I decided not to go and watch my son competing in the Cretan regional fencing competition. Since our trip to London, I felt that I could not catch up with housework, homework or office work.

His dad was horrified. "But you are his coach!" he scolded me. "If you aren't there, he won't win!" How awful, I thought. I have tied my son to my apron strings (even though I don't ever wear aprons). So his dad went instead, much to my surprise, because he always complains of too much work to accompany kids on sports events.

Am I really my son's coach? I wondered. I never cheer him on, I never shout when he scores a hit, I never even clap when he wins. I just say: "Good game," even if he wins or not. He did manage a bronze in the regional games last year, and he did quite well in the Greek games in Athens, but I never put it down to my contribution.

So while my son was at his sports event, and my husband was accompanying him, and my daughter was chatting up the other competitors, I got a chance to give the house a good vacuum, prepare the mixture for some spinach pies, put out some more washing, and cook a celebratory pork roll roast for their return. It's all about the game and not the win.

When my son did finally come home with a medal (bronze), I congratulated him i my mediocre everyone's-a-winner fashion and asked him how he felt about hius win. Before he could tell me anything, his dad jumps in: "Forget the finals, it was the last semi-final play-off everyone was talking about!" Apparently, our son knocked out last year's gold winner in the semi-final.

The first person to hit their opponent 10 times (each match is played in pairs) wins in the semi-finals. My son won the match 10-9, which means that his opponent hit him 9 times, but my son won when he made the 10th hit against him. I felt very proud to hear that my son actually won him, because I know how hard the game must have been. I have seen this other kid playing ion previous competitions; he was playing as if he thought he was one of the three musketeers. We watched him drive away in a 7-seater BMW after the match.

His opponent always played a very rough game, as though he was in it purely for the win. My son has been mauled twice by this kid, and every time, my son lost. Fencing is a sport of manners and politeness counts, with a handshake at the end of every match. But this kid simply charged at him the moemnt each match started. Few true fencers play in this way - it shows that the person is not playing as a sportsman but rather more like a snatch-and-grabber. I am not very competitive myself, and find it difficult to teach anyone to play to kill. But I was rather dumbfounded when I watched our opponent's parents scolding him whenever he didn't win. I could never bring myself to do this if my son lost. It's just a game. Or is it?
"You must have played really well to beat him," I said. "But I hope you didn't play as roughly as he does." My son didn't answer.

"If you didn't get angry," his father said, "you wouldn't have won."

"What do you mean?" I asked. "He doesn't have to get angry to win! He is playing a game of skill!"

"If I wasn't there shaking my fists at him," said my husband, "I bet that last point would have gone to his opponent!"

The semi-final match between my son and the previous gold winner was the star of the show. It was a very long match, and it was fought very hard. We may not have won the gold, but we definitely made our mark. I don't feel sorry for my son's opponent - he wasn't really a sportsman to begin with. I feel more sorry for his parents who will be wondering what made their son's opponent play less politely than they expected him to.

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