The rabbi's advice for football and life

The JC asked a group of Jewish psychologists and a rabbi to talk about disappointment


LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 12: Fans walk along a street following the Euro 2020 final on July 12, 2021 in London, England. Italy's men's team claimed victory over England in the UEFA EURO 2020 final at Wembley Stadium, winning the tournament for the first time since they hosted the competition in 1968. (Photo by Dave Rushen/Getty Images)

English hearts were broken last Sunday when the national team was defeated in the European Championship final.

How to cope after 55 years of hurt? The JC asked a group of Jewish psychologists and a rabbi to talk about extreme disappointment — and what can be done about it.

The key is to understand that success is merely an expression of your persistence in picking yourself up carrying on after defeats, according to rabbi and psychologist Samuel Landau.

The rabbi said: “I think there’s a great message in Proverbs, which says that a righteous person falls down seven times and gets back up. It’s a very interesting look at failure.

“We can look at it as something that breaks us and destroys us, and we can’t move beyond.

“But here we can read this verse as, well look at this person who fell down so many times but still got to be righteous — failure can’t be so bad. An even better reading of the verse is that the person became great because he fell over so many times and still got back up over and over again.”

Jonathan Myers, an organisational psychologist with extensive experience in the field, said: “The disappointment should be seen for what it is — it’s part of an event that isn’t necessarily going to carry forward into the future. Failure can be learnt from, and the positives need to be stressed rather than the negatives.

“The team did extremely well — nobody thought that they would get that far. So, play on the positives — that’s what people have to bear in mind.”

Sara Cooper, clinical director at Raphael Jewish Counselling, stressed that blame does not help the recovery process.

“It’s about recognising that the sadness and anger is a normal response to loss, but anger should not be directed against somebody else,” she said. “We’ve seen that with the blame being directed at black players and the racist taunts that have come out of the Euros.”

Ms Cooper suggested that feelings of disappointment should not be suppressed. It’s OK to let yourself feel glum before becoming more cheery again.

“Often the advice that people give when people do have a disappointment or loss is to cheer up and get on with it. But from a therapist’s perspective it’s important to recognise that we need to mourn before moving on. What’s important is to recognise the sadness and the loss before deciding to cheer up and move on again.”

Rabbi Landau agreed with Ms Cooper that it’s important not to push away our feelings. If we’re sad, let that sadness in. It’s not toxic and it’s not going to overwhelm us. We were all looking forward to the victory and the hope. It brought us together and that was beautiful. If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that we can be combined both in a space that is positive but also a space that is grieving... If we see that as something we can share as a country and a society then that is good thing.”


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