It was a cocktail of hope, despair, ecstasy and love. All those contrasting emotions defining a game of football watched and listened to across the globe with much pomp and sometimes fanfare. Football became the hub that created and shaped a tournament called the World Cup where one nation Brazil became cosmopolitan and mixed cultures to halt the world for one purpose.
Two months ago the media was in a soccer frenzy as the world congratulated Germany for winning the prestigious World Cup. It was a time when analysts wondered why Spain, famed for its ‘tiki taka’ style of football, was booted out in the first round; what happened to Portugal, or was it how Cristiano Ronaldo could not score as much as expected. From the attention on young talents like Memphis Depay from Netherlands, and Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane both from France; the wonder goals from James Rodriguez, Robin van Persie, Dede Ayew and Lionel Messi; to the exceptional saves by Tim Howard and Guillermo Ochoa, the world was kept mesmerised. Most of the players at the world cup were (and still are) favourites at various clubs within Europe. The rest were to immediately sign life changing contracts or be scouted for trials by big name teams as soon as the world cup came to an end.
Such has been and will always be the nature of the world cup, a tournament that comes by once every four years. A tournament which sees countries bidding to host, while making sure the infrastructure is just right. Coaches go through the headaches of team selection and years of preparation through qualifiers and play-offs. Players are under pressure to showcase their talent, keep fit and be at their best for the enduring tough matches all for the love and honour of representing their countries.
The thrill of wearing national colours and singing one’s national anthem in front of the world can never be over emphasised. That is patriotism. Perhaps the joy derived from patriotism is that it is not limited to sport alone, neither is it found in authorities in high government offices. Patriotism is embedded in one’s heart through the sheer desire to excel in whichever chosen field. The Atlas Corps fellowship, like the English Premier League, brings together hundreds of non-profit leaders from around the world to serve at U.S. based non-profits, where they spend time learning new tools and skills to bring back to their home countries. The mixture of cultures brings new understanding and appreciation of the world for us all. This is a fellowship which brings together countries at war, through individuals who share more in common than the opposite. It is a platform where minds are opened up, and, as Stephen Covey would say, “Where the saw is sharpened.”
However, the journey does not end there. The conclusion of the fellowship sees these young individuals returning to their countries to implement the knowledge they have gained, to share their experiences and ultimately to make their own communities a better place through their contributions. Just like the World Cup, the aim is to play at a prestigious club, which could be miles away from one’s home country, but the bigger picture is to stand among the best of the country, head held high watching your country’s flag waving to the rhythm of your unique national anthem.
So here we are at the premier league of non-profits, our clubs being these prestigious host organizations that we serve at. Coming from more countries than those represented at any single World Cup, complementing each other rather than competing against each other; we have found joy and comfort simply by the interactions we have and the common goal we share – to make the world a better place. As Michael Jackson sang, “We are the world, we are the children we are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start giving. There’s a choice we’re making, we’re saving our own lives, it’s true we’ll make a better day just you and me.” I remain proud to be part of this premier league, learning, sharing and experiencing new cultures, new friendships and new connections. I feel the patriotism within me; I feel my heart singing “Ngaikomborerwe Nyika yeZimbabwe,” (Blessed be the Land of Zimbabwe) and my colourful flag waving, as if dancing, to the three powerful verses of the anthem. I am a patriot; we are all patriots
By Chiedza Gadzirayi September 26, 2014