Black Swans: Chapter Zero – The Underdog Rising
An underdog story has all the potential to be a best seller. Who does not like a bit of romance! And what could be more romantic than cheering for the weaker side? In the clash between two unequals, where the tie is heavily tilted towards the overwhelmingly favourite team, the neutrals love to vouch for the poor soul(s). It’s all about romanticism. And the human psyche. Everyone loves a fairy-tale ending. A poor, honest, hardworking lad outsmarting the cunning villain to be united with the princess –the perfect script for a blockbuster. Any commoner can instantly relate to the struggles of the protagonist, the devilish tricks that life (aka villain in the story) lays ahead of them and the urge to achieve the ultimate goal – the most beautiful person under the sky – in everyone’s life. Footballing underdog stories are no different. In the rise-to-fame-from-animosity saga of a rank outsider motivates the neutrals to dream big. The die-hard fans of bogey clubs will definitely mourn their teams’ failure. But even they would not be lamenting so much had any of their arch rivals succeeded instead. Rather heaps of praises generally bestowed upon the underdog.
But these romantic endings do not come very often (indeed, what’s the charm in romance if it is found in abundance!). A small team taking on the giants of the game and eventually coming up triumphs is a rare incidence. Exciting, right? How much more exciting it would be if it were to be their maiden triumph? Let’s spice it up even more – think about a team which had done all the hard work to achieve ultimate glory but unfortunately have never been able to recreate that magic. What are the odds for such events? Not impossible, but very less likely to happen. Just like a Black Swan. They do exist but very rare to find. This is what our series is about – finding the real gems and narrating their incredible tales.
And we wanted to present to you the “real” Black Swans. Not a team which had won a single match against a superpower. That might be a fluke, right? We did not even consider teams going on to lift a cup / knock-out tournaments. Sometimes, weaker teams can take the game to shoot-out and nick in a “win”. Sometimes the team becomes lucky as its players reach – and sustain – their collective zenith during that fortnight (or may be a month) of the tournament. We considered the tough, long, gruelling league campaigns. No luck, no short-term sprint, no last-ditched effort. The league winner has to withstand tough opponents, injury and suspensions to key players during the long season, gruelling fixture congestion, and what not. And with no footprint to follow from their own, some time not so glorious, past. It’s not easy. It’s not meant to be. That’s where our Black Swans have achieved the ultimate glory.
Our Black Swans come from every part of the world. From the top five leagues of the world (i.e England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France), to the Latin American leagues full of incredible natural talent (Brazil, Uruguay, Chile), to the unchartered Middle East (Jerusalem), to the depths of Africa (Morocco), to the far East (Japan) and then finally to closer home (India) – we have covered them all.
We are indebted to Claudio and his magnificent men for ideation of this series. Leicester’s dream run to topple the big money spenders of English Premier League last season en route their maiden league win inspired us to search for our Black Swans. We researched, contemplated, debated and finally came up with thirteen memorable journeys under the banner of “The Black Swans” (thirteen letters, a mere coincidence?). There are some notable omissions – thirteen is actually a small number even for our rare species, it appears! We decided to let go the venomous Hellas Verona from the 1984-85 season as they already have a book dedicated on their marvel and thought we would rather bring forth some untold stories. We dearly wanted to have Tiko United’s triumphant journey in the 2009 season of Cameroon Première Division but could not establish enough contacts to know more about their heroics. We also thought about Rapid Wien’s maiden German Championship win in 1941, but then rejected the idea as Rapid were already a renowned force in Austrian domestic football arena.
So, a dream which was sown in early 2017, has finally become a reality. One of the most ambitious projects in the history of Goalden Times is going live shortly – nine brilliant writers, lots of interviews and unheard trivia and thirteen impossible stories.