Heartbreak always makes sports more real than triumph

A man sits on his haunches surrounded by the rubble of his dreams in front of the world. Soon he will cry. Next morning he will be greeted by a headline in a website that reads "Aziz Bouhaddouz asks for forgiveness from 35 million Moroccans!" Cristiano Ronaldo got a suspended prison sentence but Bouhaddouz's could last a lifetime after his own goal. Heartbreak always makes sport more real than triumph.

Already this is two separate Cups, of grinning Portuguese gods and mournful Moroccans and Pharaohs. Some are fighting for a Cup, others already not to go home. You might prefer the first story but I like the second, for in the desperation of lesser teams - their agonised need to write some history, to win a single match, to score a goal, to belong - we find a surprising theatre.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 17, 2018, with the headline 'Heartbreak always makes sports more real than triumph'. Print Edition | Subscribe