Be it in the sporting field, politics, scientific discoveries, academics or in a battleground, history is replete with incidents when a strong and fierce adversary has won the appreciation on the stronger, better or winning opponent. Perhaps earning respect from an adversary is the greatest honour for someone who goes down gallantly in any competitive contest. Picking out best moments of respect earned among fierce rivals is no easy task but here we pick out ten such moments which would figure among the top ten lists:
10. Alexander the Great and King Porous:
Greek conqueror Alexander in his quest to expand the empire deep into Asia encountered a fierce opponent in King Porous on the plains of Indus valley in North India in 326 BC. Winning the hard fought battle on Jhelum River compelled Alexander to treat the vanquished king with respect for the bravery displayed on the field. Even in defeat Porous was gracious enough to demand respect of equals that the victor did willingly agree to. Before advancing further, Alexander not only restored the kingdom of Porous but also gained a client king to administer the vast empire which stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to Indus River.
9. After Battle of Waterloo, exiling Napoleon Bonaparte to St. Helena:
For attempting to revive the French Empire, Napoleon Bonaparte first having escaped from exile and then losing at the Battle of Waterloo on 18th June 1815 could have heavier price for daring to take on the allies, led by arch rival Britain. It was out of respect to one of Europe’s ablest administrators and fierce conqueror that the British forces spared his life and banished Napoleon to St Helena, a small island in the Atlantic where he died 6 years later.
8. Mark Antony appreciations for Marcus Brutus:
Dramatically played out in Julius Caesar play by Shakespeare, the rivalry between Mark Antony and Marcus Brutus is a classic political rivalry following the assassination of the great Roman. Though the Caesar funeral speech of Antony, before it ends turns ironic and incites an irate mob, but even in the dramatic version the noble qualities of Brutus did get his bitter rival to praise them publically
7. Tennis: Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova:
The on court rivalry among these two female tennis players was legendary but Navratilova after winning a gruesome game at the 1985 Australian Open acknowledged before the crowds, “If somebody had told me in 1973 that Chris and I would play each other 67 times, I think I would have quit right then.” From 1973 to 1988 the two players faced each other 80 times, of which 60 were in finals and 14 of them at Grand Slam title matches.
6. Chess: Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer:
It was not a rivalry of two grandmasters of Chess but one of two cultures who stood across the dividing line at the height of the Cold War. American grandmaster Fischer defeating Soviet Union icon Spassky in the 1972 World Chess Championship has been considered the match of 20th Century. Though Fischer defeated Spassky, ending a 24 year unbroken supremacy of Soviet grandmasters in the game but the sportsman that Spassky was could not stop him from applauding one well played game of Fischer. Later in life when Fischer faced jail for defying American laws, Spassky defended him.
5. Boxing: Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier:
This rivalry in the ring and outside the ring did have the two great boxers, between 1971 and 1975 fight three times, of what has been labeled as the fight of the century and is considered one of greatest boxing bouts in history. Though Ali got the better of Frazier in two of the three slugfest bouts and though Frazier never actually forgave Ali but that did not stop him in 1978 from appearing on This is Your Live Tribute to Ali where he referred to him as a ‘great guy’
4 Cricket: Pakistan players celebrate Indian teams 1983 Cricket World Cup win:
On field and off field India-Pakistan rivalry ever since the two countries were partitioned from one nation in 1947 is legendary but guards were let down in the summer of 1983 at Lords ground London, when India beat reigning two time champions West Indies to lift the World Cup. The win gave ascendancy to Asian cricket but for once, the India-Pakistan rivalry was kept aside on the day of the historic win.
3. Business: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates:
The rivalry between Jobs and Gates has shaped the world of computers as we have it today. Though both went onto build world class companies but the two never lost respect for each other, while fiercely competing in businesses and innovative technologies. Ultimate tribute to Jobs was handed out by Gates as “We did lots of tablets well before Apple did but they put the pieces together in a way that succeeded.”
2. Business: Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla:
Current wars DC versus AC unfolded birth of commercial electricity into modern life. Though it was AC or alternate current propagated by Tesla that won the day but he and Edison had become bitter rivals much before that even though the two of them at collaborated on the project earlier. Much is made out of the acrimonious rivalry between the two but Telsa as quoted in Seifers biography remarked of Edison, “I was amazed at this wonderful man who, without early advantages and scientific training had accomplished so much.
1. Politics: Pak president Prevez Musharraf salutes Indian PM Vajpayee:
Public display by politicians grudgingly acknowledging respect for a bitter rival are rare but the former Pakistan President surprised many at one gathering when after delivering a speech about how to taken regional and India-Pakistan relations forward, Musharraf before taking his seat on the dais saluted the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who could not acknowledge it because the salutary gesture was made behind his back.