An Emotional Encounter!

I had feared the worst the day the draws for the FA Cup quarterfinals between Manchester United and Arsenal was made. While the literature on had referred to the game as a “mouth-watering” fixture, I didn’t see anything mouthwateringin meeting a team who could pose as Rock of Gibraltar to the only trophy my beloved United could clinch this season! I remember it was this same “mouthwatering” phrase that was preferred when Manchester United was paired against Real Madrid in the second round of the Champions League three seasons ago in the final reign of Sir Alex Ferguson. Manchester United played a pulsating 1-1 at the Santiago Bernabéu in the first leg and was going to finish off Los Blancos in the highly anticipated return leg at Old Trafford. The script had been fine when United went a goal up at the starting of the second half, only for Alvaro Arbeloa to theatrically throw himself on Luis Nani’s highly raised leg while the latter was attempting to tame the ball to his feet. Arbeloa rolled endlessly on the floor while groaning menacingly and the referee fell for his gimmicks—off goes Nani. Everything headed south and United capitulated to the attacking overtures of Madrid through a Luka Modrić strike and the lethal Cristiano Ronaldo who capitalized on the docility of Brazilian right back Raphael to tap home a winner. Even though Ronaldo muted his celebration—he had done the job and United crashed out.

My resentment of a mouthwatering encounter wasn’t necessarily born out of the fact that the Gunners are a very formidable side. Make no mistake, they are a good team that plays attractive football and have a few good players in their ranks, but even in their best form, United have always managed to get the better of them. The sobering statistics that The Gunners has not won in Old Trafford in nine years and has not won in the last eleven games are palpable enough. My reservation stemmed from the fact that United have formed an unimpressive habit of wobbling in the FA Cup for over a decade now since they last won it and it beggars belief that a player like Wayne Rooney doesn’t have an FA Cup medal in his impressive trophy cabinet. As I watched on at the pub (viewing centre!) on Monday, my jitter got some stamp of reality when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain wriggled through the shambolic United’s defence in a Messi-like fashion to set up Nacho Monreal in the far left of the penalty box. The Spaniard didn’t panic but adroitly lifted the pink ball to the roof of the net to give Arsenal a shock lead. Manchester United responded a few minutes later when Angel Di Maria initiated a left curling ball from the right wing to find Wayne Rooney whose diving header made him the player that has scored the highest number of goals against the Gunners. The mouthwatering effect, for once, encapsulated the scenery as the faithfuls erupted in a roar of exhilaration.

Manchester United v Arsenal - FA Cup Quarter Final

Football – Manchester United v Arsenal – FA Cup Quarter Final – Old Trafford – 9/3/15
Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney scores their first goal
Action Images via Reuters / Jason Cairnduff
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Rooney’s diving header game Manchester United the equalizer in the first half.

The second half started in a lackluster fashion and on the 61st minute Phil Jones chested a routine ball in the midfield and laid it back for Valencia.The assiduous Ecuadorian tried to retain possession by laying a back pass to the in-form David De Gea, only for him to mishit his pass and sell the shot stopper short. Danny Welbeck, the Longsight bred lad from Manchester who was ferried across to North London in a reshuffling last summer, intercepted the pass with his longish leg and inserted the ball into the hapless net. If that was not horrific enough, the ebony skinned dude defied the time-honored gesture of not celebrating when you score against your old club (One he was since eight years old till about twenty three) and ran in wild jubilation with his large arms in the air as if he was going to fly!

Welboo Celebrating                 Gotcha! Danny Welbeck celebrating his match-winning goal with teammates

United continued to chase the game and in the 74th minute, Di Maria while on his trademark haggling of his markers, was slightly brushed by Aaron Ramsey as he tried to go past him and play halted. Who’s going to take the ensuing free kick from the set play that is likely to follow and give United the much desired equalizer—Di Maria himself or Wayne Rooney? Not so fast— the referee, Michael Oliver, reached for his pockets and flashed a yellow card across the face of the British record summer signing, claiming his fall was a simulation. Angel miffed by what he saw as flagrant injustice protested his frustration and did what I have never seen since I have been watching football. As the referee was making his way out the fold that had gathered, Di Maria tugged back the referee’s shirt in a “hey where the heck do you think you’re going” manner. Oliver, taken aback, would not cower at that attempt to usurp his authority— he flashed another yellow card to send the tricky Argentine winger down the tunnel. United woes chasing the game were compounded by a numerical disadvantage. A mouthwatering encounter has morphed into a nightmare, nay, an emotional encounter!

It was crazy. Why would he react that way when he could have worked away especially when the captain Wayne Rooney was nudging him to remain calm? With that moment of madness, he let himself down, as well as his teammates and his coach Louis Van Gaal who lampooned that “that is not so smart of him.” As I ruminated over this, it won’t take me long to reason that Di Maria lacked emotional intelligence!


    Angel sees red after his moments of madness

What is emotional intelligence? It is simply the ability to control your emotions and use it to get the desired results. As humans we are emotional beings. A wave of positive and negative emotions flow through us every day: anxiety, fear, grief, anger, apathy, regret, enthusiasm, empathy, optimism, curiosity, laughter, action. Our ability to sit at the helm of these emotions and be able to use them to our own benefit is one of the greatest keys becoming successful in life. Aristotle once opined that “anyone can become angry—that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way—this is not easy.”

Emotion which is derived from Latin (meaning “set in motion”) has a way of controlling us if we don’t control it. For example, if you wake up on the wrong side of your bed in the morning feeling moody, you’d probably go through the whole day in that mode and it could affect a lot of things. Likewise you would be in charge of your day better if you set the right emotion in the morning—showing gratitude, getting upbeat and looking forward to a great day.

There are so many authorities as there are scholars and books on emotional intelligence and I was also spewing some emotions deciding which authority to use while writing this! But I think I’ll just summarize in my own way:

  1. Self-awareness. You’ve got to be a good student of yourself and know the areas where you are most susceptible. This you could do by having introspection. Positive self-talk is also a good way to do this. Once you become aware of your negative emotion triggers, you practice positive self-talk and say to yourself that when such situation occurs, you’re not going to act negatively and psyche yourself up with positive responses. You can also plan your action on what you are going to do in such times. This is going to take some time but it works.
  2. Take a deep breath. There’s always a gap between stimulus and response where you can control your action. Peter Bregman, bestselling author Four Seconds, All the Time You Need to Stop Counter-Productive Habits and Get the Results You Want, talks about the deep breath, something he got from meditation that helps him to slow down on impulsive reaction and be in control of his emotion. Come to think of it, we all can control our emotions. I’m sure you don’t yell at your boss when he gives you an impossible task because you know you’d be fired! Just before you do it… take a deep breath—you can change your mind in less than two seconds!
  3. Chose to be emotionally intelligent: Now that you know that there are positive and negative emotions, be fully conscious of them and purport to use them to your own advantage. Chose to be a better person; be socially aware and know that only people who are in control of their feelings can get the best they want out of every situation and eventually post success.

O.P. Philips is a freelance writer/entrepreneur. He is the author of The “OBAMA” in You! His new book, “What Football Teaches About Life” will be released soon.

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