Raise your game

Raise your game

__”The trick is this: keep your eye on the ball. Even when you can’t see the ball”.*
In 1973 when I was 12 years old, I took my first real interest in World Cup soccer, particularly Africaโ€™s progress to secure the one available slot then. [The first permanent spot for nations on our continent was only granted in 1970…]
Zambia and Zaire [now Congo DR] were our best teams by far, and I supported Zambia to the point of keeping my radio on all the time! When Zaire knocked out Zambia to qualify, my uncle who attended the match put it down to witchcraft: โ€œWhen their striker kicked the ball, it became a lion!โ€ he explained to us later.
As the first-sub-Saharan African team to play in the World Cup, Zaire [the two-time African Cup of Nations Champions] went on to lose to Scotland, Yugoslavia, and Brazil in 1974’s first group stage. [Became a sad story for a few reasons].
Being a bit of a smarty pants, I later mocked my uncle after watching West Germany defeat Netherlands 2-1 in the Final that year: โ€œUncle! This is not about witchcraft; itโ€™s about the skills and strategy of the coaches!โ€
He chased me away!
Of course, I was right… A few years later in 1978 an African side, Tunisia, defeated Mexico 3-1 [the first African win in a World Cup!] and then held the mighty West Germans 0-0 [after losing to Poland 1-0].
In 1982 and then again in 1990 the world saw the arrival of the Africans in the form of a thrilling team from Cameroon. In its first group stage match that year, Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions defeated Argentina 1-0 [Diego Maradona’s 1986 World Cup champions] and proceeded to become Africa’s first team to make it to the quarterfinals, where they lost to England 3-2… in overtime.
Then in 1996, I watched Live in Atlanta as a young Nigerian Super Eagles team took the Olympic Gold! [Argentina and Brazil took silver and bronze medals]. And then Cameroon won the Gold in 2000!! Suddenly there was a gold rush to find African players and Africa dutifully obliged with some of the greatest players to grace the game, including including Jay-Jay Okocha, Mo Salah, Didier Drogba, Riyad Mahrez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Tourรฉ, Yaya Tourรฉ, Sadio Mane, Ezaki Badou, Victor Osimhen, George Weah, Peter Ndlovu, Nwankwo Kanu, Samuel Eto’o, Bruce Grobbelaar, Hakim Ziyech, Roger Milla, Abedi Pele, Michael Essien, to name just a few.
[Listed in random order and don’t get distracted if I didn’t mention a great player you like, or one of the several World Cup or Olympic match victories since then. Keep your EYE ON THE BALL here!]
What changed?
We realized that victory had nothing to do with magic and witchcraft! We rather had to harness our skills and train them. We needed #Pathfinders who rose to the best stages of the game and then inspired others and shared the #Playbook used in the top teams.
Now, what has this to do with #Entrepreneurship?
You tell me!
BTW: A few weeks ago I met my dear friend Patrice Motsepe who chairs the Confรฉdรฉration Africaine de Football (CAF) and we discussed the worldwide interest in watching the CAF final. It was live around the world!
โ€œA few years ago they did not want to watch our soccer. Now every big club sends scouts and itโ€™s on TV worldwide,” he enthused. “The reason is simple; the quality of our game is now at the same standard as Europe. We will have a team to win the World Cup within a few years.โ€
โ€œWhat changed?โ€ I asked, knowing that by World Cup 2026, there will be nine slots open for African teams [up from only five].
Then he told me about some of the important business thinking he and his colleagues were bringing to the game.
โ€œLike the 3Ps?!โ€
We both laughed in agreement.
The 3Ps:
#Product – Treat football as a product with a customer who wants to see the …
#People – You need to find the best players, on and off the pitch.
#Process – We need to adopt the best management practices, including use of technology on and off the training ground. We must run our clubs as businesses and capitalise them properly.
Now what has this to do with #Entrepreneurship?
Everything!
Donโ€™t treat business as an area of magic and mystery where only those with special access to power and politics can succeed. Whether it is coming up with a product or service to sell, or raising money to scale, these are all [just] taught skills!
Anger and frustration is not a strategy!
Raise your game, keep your eye on the ball, and letโ€™s get going.
Image credit: UbuntuHope/Kathi Walther Bouma. World Cup 2010 semi-final, South Africa. Looking forward to World Cup 2030 in Morocco!
*Quote by Tom Robbins.
Strive Masiyiwa
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