No one could have seen it coming. The stoppage time own-goal scored by England’s Laura Bassett which sealed her team’s doom and ushered Japan into the final of the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
Some would say, “it’s just a game.” And it is. But moments like this are way more than the game. They are, at once, thrilling and sensational, heartbreaking and debilitating. And something compels us to watch and weep. This poor girl. Thank goodness her teammates and coach are there to rally around her, because I want to. I want to tell her it’s okay. You’ll play another day. Your team and your country will forgive you. They are proud of you. Nothing has changed.
I love that her mother says, “Laura will bounce back.” She has raised a girl who has experienced hardship and come through it. She will again.
As moved as I always am by images of thrilling victory, I’m not sure they compare with this. We may love a winner, but we feel with a loser. We feel with the one who gave her all and died trying. Because, while we haven’t all experienced the thrill of victory, we’ve all felt the agony of defeat. It draws us in a way that splays our hearts and lays us bare.
Death gone to willingly, not falling on our own sword as a coward, but arrived at suddenly in the heat of battle, boldly and confidently. Chosen, but not expected. This kind of death doesn’t kill, it inspires. In a way no victory could.
Imagine the ovation Laura Bassett will receive as she takes the field in the third place match, the ‘consolation’ round of the World Cup, and not just from England fans but from footballing fans around the world. Together, we celebrate the spirit of this young woman whose agony flashed in a moment on our screens, but in whose resilience we are invested. That’s who we want to be. One who dies and lives again.
The world may love winning, but there’s no arguing that victory divides us. Suffering and death, on the other hand, unites us in way that no victor can. Amazing.