leadership, football and why I lost interest in the latter

One of my regular followers of my Monday Musings column has just texted to ask if tomorrow’s effort will cover the England football team’s failures in the World Cup. I said that could offer some thoughts but, as I haven’t watched a ball kicked in this competition, I don’t feel qualified to make any comments.

“You’ve not watched it?” he responded, disbelief reverberating through the his keypad over the ether to my phone. Well no. I last watched a professional game way back in the early 1990s, England v Georgia at Wembley to be as precise, and I haven’t been to a league game since the mid 80s.

I used to love football. I watched, played and refereed for years, but then some idiot said that stadiums had to be all seated, but failed to invoke the death penalty for anyone who failed to remain seated. What is the point of implying that the crowd can’t stand to watch then allow them to do just that? Bloody stupid idea.

The whole pleasure of going to a league match was getting there 45 to 90 minutes before the kick off, staking your claim on a bit of terrace and then being part of the immense jigsaw that would assemble around you until the game was over. Those who’s bladders couldn’t take the strain could take a spot near an exit, but the die hards would stay put for the duration. If it was a big crowd you’d take in turns to breathe.

So the concept of taking away the terraces so that we could all sit down in supposed safety to watch then allowing everyone to stand up anyway just ruined the game for me and I stopped going. Later the cost made it not worth the money anyway and then the ridiculous fad of long shorts made it plain unwatchable for me so TV viewing went down the leg side (to borrow a cricketing expression) as well.

As to the England v Germany result today I understand that we got drubbed after some unconvincing performances in the group matches. As to why, I’m reminded of something that Billie Jean King* (or Moffitt as I really still remember her) once said, along the lines of champions are afraid of losing, the rest are afraid of winning.

Anyone who has played knows the feeling. The ball is coming your way, and you know that, if you catch it just right on the volley, the perfect pass to split the defence is on. Or maybe the goal is there, and the perfect volley will bury the ball in the top corner. But you only have to be a fraction out on that volley and it ain’t going to happen, so you have a choice; go for it, or take the soft option? Champions will always go for it.

I’d like to say that, in my playing days, I never took to soft option, but I did more often than I am proud of. I did learn from that though, and took that lesson into my business life. That would have to be all I can offer on the subject of leadership in this case – accepting responsibility for your own actions and always being prepared to do the hard thing when it comes your way.

(*Talking briefly of tennis, and with Wimbledon under way, I feel another blog coming on about why I haven’t watched that for years either, but that’s another story. Watch this space).

Tomorrows Monday Musings is on customers, and will go out at about 0600 UK time, Monday 28 June.

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