In Georgia and Afghanistan, sports found its fulfilling moments


For sports fans in India, the last week or so must have been riveting. Afghanistan reaching the semi-finals of a big cricket event and Georgia punching way above weight in football are refreshing stories. These nations had not locus standi in the disciplines mentioned. For them to push the barriers was massive news for the sports and those who follow them.

Underdogs challenging the existing order is one of the most fascinating elements of sports. It’s not new. East Germany beating West Germany in World Cup football in 1974, and Zimbabwe taking out Australia in the World Cup of cricket in 1983 are just a couple of examples. There are numerous instances across disciplines where the so-called David downed Goliath.

However, what keeps these stories alive and makes them stand out is the unpredictability factor. They never cease to surprise. So when Georgia humble even a half-strength Portugal at Euro 2024 or Afghanistan shoot down Australia in the T20 World Cup, they become part of the lore the respective sports are made up of. They become epochal moments that inspire.

Georgia’s claim to fame in the world of sports was their chess. This tiny country with a population of around 37 lakh produced some famous Grandmasters and continues to do so. As a part of the erstwhile USSR, it had also given some footballers. But, as a football entity, they were non-existent. About a decade ago, they were ranked behind India in FIFA rankings. Now, they are in the last 16 of the world’s toughest international football competition with a 2-0 win over the 2016 champions.

Afghanistan, a historically troubled nation with minimal sporting resources and infrastructure, had a few boxers and their sporting identity actually began and ended with Buzkashi. It’s a primitive version of polo where instead of a flat disc, horse-mounted players try and push the carcass of a goat into the goal. From there to play a massive role in knocking Australia out of the T20 World Cup is a fairy tale. They lost to South Africa all right, but went out with reputation enhanced.

This is what makes sports what it is. These events are not only for the traditionally superiors. Yes, they are the favourites and more often than not, they live up to that billing. In between come times when the underdogs scream. Remember Greece winning the European football championship in 2004? Or Afghanistan beating England, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in last year’s 50-over World Cup?

That’s why the last few weeks or so have been good times for sports fans. It’s they who drive these activities, not just the players. Be it football or cricket, those who watch have been treated to some captivating stuff. Austria beat the Netherlands and topped a group which also had France. Slovakia beat Belgium. The USA knocked Pakistan out of the T20 World Cup. Nepal lost to South Africa by one run. The lovers of uncertainties, glorious or inglorious, couldn’t have asked for more.