The High School Student News Site of The American School in London

The Standard

The High School Student News Site of The American School in London

The Standard

Recovering after the fall

General Catering Assistant Sergio Pimental knows how to deal with failure. Born in Angola, Pimental’s family had to flee to Zimbabwe in 1977 after the Angolan Revolution only for the same thing to happen a few years later in Zimbabwe.

Without their possessions and wealth they had accumulated in Africa, Pimental’s family arrived in Portugal in 1982 to start a new life. Pimental’s beloved mother soon died, devastated by all she had lost in Africa. To cope, Pimental found a distraction. “I focused on [soccer] and [soccer] was like my family,” he said.

At age 14, Pimental signed his first professional contract, entering a world completely different from the one he was used to. He attended school during the week, but trained after school and during weekends.

However, Pimental’s soccer career was short-lived. He was manipulated into signing a contract with two different soccer clubs, and ended up being ousted from both of them.

After his experience with manipulation and corruption within the soccer league, Pimental decided that he was no longer interested in a career in soccer. Along with four other friends, Pimental formed a business, which included a restaurant and a book store.

But Pimental’s world soon collapsed again when Portugal’s economy crashed, and Pimental was forced to work as many as 16 hours a day to earn enough for him and his family.

While Pimental was working long hours at his business–his wife soon became suspicious. With a failing marriage and struggling business, Pimental decided he needed to start a new life; for him and for his teenage son, who he cites as his biggest motivator in his life. However, doubts about his future emerged. “I didn’t know if I was able to do another kind of life,” he said. “My CV was just my football career and my manager career. I thought I knew how to do everything, but I didn’t have the papers to show it. I was a little bit afraid. For the first [time] of my life, since I was 14, I was unemployed.”

After a tumultuous journey, which included a brief spell in Holland, Pimental found himself at a London job agency. He did manage to find work, however, despite his experience being soccer player and manager; they put him in a kitchen as a porter, washing plates and other utensils. Although Pimental was overjoyed to have a job, he often struggled to accept his new career, one that was a far cry from the prestige he had enjoyed while playing on the soccer pitch.

While Pimental has encountered a lifetime of stopping and starting again, students at school are tasting their first bites of failure. For Alisha Gandhi (’15), failure came within the realm of academia: College. The day after Gandhi got rejected from her early decision school, she arrived at school unsure of what her peers would think. However, she now credits her peers for their support. “I’ve never felt that I was being judged for not getting in,” Gandhi said. “When you go through it, with a hundred other kids, people are getting rejected, accepted, we are all going through it, so no one is judging you.”

While ultimately Gandhi felt that her peers and the greater community were supportive and understanding when she did not achieve her goal, Isobel Sheil (’16) didn’t feel quite the same. Sheil was cut from JV volleyball her freshman year. Afterwards, she felt as if she was being judged by peers for failing to make the team. “ASL promotes, ‘if you fail, always try again’ [mentality] but the kids in the school are more like ‘you failed the first time, so you’re obviously [bad]’,” Sheil said.

College Counselor Ivan Hauck agrees with Gandhi and cites embarrassment as the major factor for students fear of failure; students care a lot about what each other think so the stakes are high.

Varsity soccer Co-captain Dariush Yazdanpanah (’15), experienced failure in the form of a second-place silver medal at the 2014 varsity boys soccer ISSTs.

The loss was especially painful for a host of reasons. Yazdanpanah points to the proximity of the trophy as the chief source of the team’s grief. “We wept because of how near to the gold medal we were,” he said. After an undefeated season, the team played, as Yazdanpanah described it, “one of the worst games played in the past two years.”

In his room at night, the silver medal is not a token of a successful season, but often a haunting reminder of the final outcome. “When I look at [the medal] I look at it for a couple of seconds and say ‘I wish it was gold’,” he said.

Hauck believes that high school is the best place for students to experiment with failure, whether it be related to sports or to academics. “Learning how to deal with that sense of rejection now is actually really important because there are so many support structures in place here, you’ve got your parents, you’ve got your friends, you’ve got college counselors, you have deans, you have other faculty,” he said.

Though it is almost always hidden, Hauck believes that there is always something positive that comes out of failure.

Athletic Director John Farmer sees the importance of failure due to a person’s ability to grow and learn from it. “At the end of the day, strictly from a competitive standpoint, not losing is rarely a good thing,” he said. “You need to understand when you lose, how to bounce back, how to face adversity, how to deal with setbacks, and how you respond.”

Yazdanpanah sees his perceived failure at ISSTs as a learning experience. “The tournament helped me mature,” he said. “If you had asked me two months ago ‘what would you do if you got to the final and won a silver medal?’ I would have said that it would be a failure, but now that I have experienced it, I wouldn’t call it that.”

As for Pimental, many of his friends have asked him in disbelief, “Sergio, why did you quit football? You are a big guy; one minute you are on TV and the other minute you are serving coffees?”

But Pimental doesn’t regret a second of it, but instead, chooses to focus on the positives. “If that didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have my son,” he said. [He] is the best thing I have.”

Thinking back to all of the failure he faced, all the mis-steps and unfortunate events he dealt with, Pimental does looks gratefully at his experiences. “I achieved everything I wanted, even if it was not the correct way,” he said.

For Pimental, the failure of his business gave him a priceless opportunity: “At 46 years old, I have the chance to have a second chance, a second life.”

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