What were the odds?

Joan Gamper sought like-minded individuals, wanting to form a football club based in Barcelona, and so, he posted an ad in the newspaper. The ad said that he was “wishing to organise the matches in Barcelona, requesting that everyone who likes this sport contact him..”

One month later on November 29, 1899, twelve attended a meeting that would lead to the formation of Futbol Club Barcelona.

Fast forward 119 years, and you have Lionel Messi scoring a phenomenal goal, on what is yet another fantastic Wednesday night for the little man. You watch Dembélé roll the ball towards Messi’s feet, and you wonder, “What’s he going to do here?” and the cheeky magician almost trips two certain defenders and puts the ball in the top corner. The goalie just stands motionless, a mere observer of Leo’s brilliance, able to do absolutely nothing about that goal.

The question needs to be asked, what were the odds? What were the odds that we were born in just the right time to witness the greatest football club, with the greatest player to ever step foot on grass? What were the odds that you actually watched that goal, live?

The Salton Lake, the largest water body in California is the home of the second diverse group of birds in America. The ridiculous part is, it exists by accident. In the 1900s, American engineers were attempting to irrigate the fields of the American Southwest, using the water from the Colorado River. However, they wanted to control the water to prevent flooding the farmland.

But in 1905, they got the plan a little wrong, and the Colorado River flooded its banks. The channels built then paved way for the River to flow into a plane, which was around 70m below sea level. This was and still is one of the lowest points in North America. It took around two years to stop the flooding, and the plane now filled with water came to be known as the Salton Lake.

The Lake had become a famous tourist destination for over a decade too, but it did not last for long. Without a proper way to outsource the water, apart from consecutive and repeated evaporation and precipitation, the water in the lake became more and more saline. After several decades, salinity levels reached a point at which fish could not survive and it was unsafe for people to swim.

As of now, it’s nothing but a reservoir of some pretty salty water, largely isolated from people. A lake that never should have been in the first place, existed at one point, held relevance, and now remains in solitude.

Under Pep Guardiola, Barcelona had a midfield trio of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets. It was heavenly, they say. The ball, always at their feet, toying with the opposition, creating goals for fun. It was absolutely incredible. When Iniesta scored his wonder goal against Chelsea at the Stamford Bridge, in 2009, the feeling was indescribable. An immense passion, one that is quite literally incomprehensible. Looking back, one wonders at the brilliance of that moment. What if Messi hadn’t passed the ball the way he did?

If Iniesta was off by just a few inches, would Pep be held in the high regard that he currently is?

In an interview on whether he deserved the Ballon d’Or, Wesley Sneijder said—

“Had I not scored the goal that got us to the final, I probably would not have been considered for an award dedicated to the best player of the year.”

It truly is incredible the massive weight a few moments carry, the influence they have on everything.

In 2011, Dr. Ali Binazir published a paper, calculating the probability of one’s existence. His paper contained this following material.

Assuming your parents socialised like normal humans, the probability of them meeting was about 1 in 20,000. The odds that they even have a kid, given global trends? 1 in 2000. Now, assuming they did meet, the odds that you were born— the odds of that sperm hooking up with that egg in particular— are about 1 in 400….. quadrillion. And that’s not even the half of it, because before the egg, before your parents met, there is of course all of your ancestors, who had to go through the very same, specific process. Talking about just 100,000 generations back, we’re talking about a chance of 1 in 10 to the power 45,000 that they’d meet. But wait, we need to multiply that by the chances that the respective sperm and eggs meet, which gives us an astronomical chance of 1 in 10 to the power 2,640,000.


Those odds are so microscopically low, one would have an exponentially better chance to find a specific quark in the entire Universe. In fact, if one could collect one specific quark after another and place them separately, he would able to make not one, not two….. but 10 to the power 2,639,920 Universes. Such are the odds of one’s birth. The probability of “being” is so tiny, it is nearly impossible to comprehend it within the limits of the human mind.

But hey, why stop at one person?
It is quite difficult to imagine the collective probability of everything going exactly the way it did. 13.7 billion years, what were the odds that gravity was just strong enough to allow the formation of stars and galaxies but just weak enough to prevent them from collapsing in on themselves? What were the odds that every atom moved and arranged itself in the way it did, every molecule interacted with its neighbouring molecules in the way it did? What were the odds that life came into existence? What were the odds that life evolved the way it did? What were the odds that Homo sapiens sapiens rose above Homo neanderthalensis? Just what were the odds?

All the burden, just so that you could sit on your couch and watch FC Barcelona play Futbol. Just so that you could watch your favourite players kick around a spherical object, with a ridiculous aim to get it past a line on the other side. A funny game which involves running and passing, and yet, can seem so beautiful at times. One ought to wonder, just how fortunate are we?

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