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Wednesday, July 15, 1998 Published at 18:57 GMT 19:57 UK

Sport: Football

Kipling captures World Cup spirit

Kipling's poem sums up the sporting spirit of the World Cup

On paper there was only one World Cup winner. But behind the glum expressions of all those who fell by the way-side is a winning spirit that is the mark of every sportsman.

[ image: Popular reading: Des Lynam]
Popular reading: Des Lynam
Des Lynam, the face of the BBC World Cup team, kept the masses glued to their TV sets after the final on Sunday with a reading of Rudyard Kipling's poem, If.

The poem, which encapsulates the sporting spirit that made the World Cup a success, was accompanied by scenes of the tournament's highs and lows.

It set the BBC switchboard alight as viewers asked to see it again. It can be watched here on Real Video.

If, by Rudyard Kipling

Des Lynam recites Rudyard Kipling's If on BBC One's World Cup 98 Final
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

A homage to humility, understanding and quiet self-assurance, If, has long been a poem of the people. In 1995, it was voted the nation's favourite poem in a poll conducted for National Poetry Day.

[ image: Supporter of Empire: Rudyard Kipling]
Supporter of Empire: Rudyard Kipling
But its string of platitudes betray a deeper meaning to the verse.

Kipling, a loyal supporter of the British Empire, wrote the poem with Dr Leander Starr Jameson in mind.

In late 1895 the British-born Dr Jameson led about 500 of his countrymen in a reckless and unsuccessful raid against the Boers, in southern Africa. What became known as the Jameson Raid was later cited as a major factor in bringing about the Boer War of 1899 to 1902.

But the story that swept across the UK was quite different. The British defeat was interpreted as a victory and Jameson portrayed as a daring hero.

Kipling saw the Afrikaners as aggressors, who were backward-looking people, opposed to progress and civilisation. He sided with his friend and countryman Jameson, believing his ambitions for the territory to be more honourable.

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