Robin Van Persie scores against Spain (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Robin Van Persie scores against Spain (Photo credit: Getty Images)

I love soccer a lot. It was the first sport I learnt to play as a boy. I remember playing soccer on the streets for hours and hours. We stopped when it got too dark to see the rugged ball, which was a little more than a crafty assembly of cloth, newspapers, plastic and strings. I love soccer because in my country it has united people from religious, political and racial divides. It is a sport which has seen a lot of talent, tactics and team work and it is a sport which also provides a lot of reminders about life and leadership.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup is a good example and if we reflect on the performance of the country teams, we can identify a number of reminders. For example, Netherlands’ experiences remind us that we should focus on making the most of what we have, instead of lamenting the things we do not have. The Dutch team beat the then world champions Spain and went as far as the semifinals. The team coach was widely praised for making the most of the relatively mediocre players he had in his team.

There are many people, myself included, who are passionate about their work and dreams and like Brazil and USA they ‘play’ with much spirit and determination. And indeed passion and spirit can get you very far, but on their own, they are not enough. We still need knowledge and the right skills to complement our passions as we chase our dreams. The hammering of Brazil by Germany which had a superior skills set shows just how inadequate passion can be when there are no skills to complement it.

The World Cup 2014 also reminds us of the value of teamwork. One person never makes a great team. A cohesive group is better than one extremely talented individual. England and Portugal were named ‘Team Rooney’ and ‘Team Cristiano’ in some sections of the media because their superstars were carrying the hopes of the nation and coaches’ tactics tended to center on these individual talents rather than the whole team. Sadly these ‘teams’ did not go beyond the group stages and were sent packing early in the tournament.

Germany went on to lift the World Cup, and their story is one of a long walk to success. Germany’s win was the result of a soccer development plan that took fourteen years to execute and here we are reminded that careful planning, tenacity and patience will certainly lead to rewards in this life. So what does your favorite sport remind you about life and leadership?

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