I don’t know about you but I am loving the World Cup.
I started late this tournament. My first game was the Mexico-Germany match on Sunday. Germany - the defending champions - lost 1-0 to the Mexicans. As a Scot I was surprised by how emotionally invested I found myself in the outcome, a mere ten minutes into the game.
But why not? People get massively invested in whichever team they pick in the office sweepstake. Maybe they simply like the strips (and by the way did you SEE the Nigerians’ travel outfits? Amazing). Or they have a friend or partner who’s from one of the playing countries. Whatever the reason we temporarily pick up a new identity if our own team (hello Scotland) hasn’t made the grade, and probably feel a lasting affinity with our country of choice afterwards.
This tournament has got off to a great start. Amongst other things:
- Russia has surprised everyone by apparently being pretty good at football (they thrashed Saudi Arabia in the opening game of the tournament. To add insult to injury the Saudi team’s plane engine also caught fire on its way to the second match. Oops. Fortunately they were all fine.).
- Cristiano Ronaldo has surprised absolutely nobody by being amazing and has during the tournament become the leading European international goal scorer in history with 85 goals to his name. Is he the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) as a footballer? Talk about if Carlsberg made footballers....
- Although Ronaldo scored three goals in Portugal’s opening match against Spain he’s not yet the leading goal scorer in the tournament, he’s only second. Top of the table is “Own Goal”. Oh dear. A remarkable five own goals have been scored already. The previous record was six, way back in 1948. And there are still 47 games to go as I write this! That’s tough in any setting, let alone the World Cup. It’s going to take a strong team and maybe national culture to get over that kind of event if it puts you out of the tournament.
- The youngest England squad since 1962 has won its opening game. A hard-fought game against Tunisia and a superb injury time goal by Harry Kane, who also scored England’s other goal of the game, was an invigorating watch. Gareth Southgate is winning plaudits for the way he has created a great culture amongst the team. He’s encouraged them to interact with the press. He’s encouraged their input and feedback in training and review sessions. He’s encouraged them to play to win (rather than simply not to lose: there’s a big difference). It certainly seems to be working and long may it continue.
I’m supporting England of course. I live there and am married to an Englishman. I’d be supporting Scotland, Wales and Rep of Ireland if they were in the tournament as well.
Because the World Cup still unites people, and in a unique way. The scale. The hope. The fun. The opportunity to meet people from around the world. The hopes, fears and dreams dashed and come true. Although there can be only one winner, there will be lots of winning moments along the way. I can’t wait to tune in to more of them over the coming weeks.
And what about you, footballer, fan, or neither? Are you invested in your team? The one at your workplace, that is. Chances are, unless you’re its leader and have been able to handpick each and every one of them, you’ve been thrown together with a group of strangers and have had to make a team from there. This is by no means an easy feat, and it’s by no means guaranteed that you – or your leader – have been able to do this. High-performing teams need a vision, a mission and plans for how to translate those. They need task focus, people skills and a commitment to grit their teeth through the challenging times to get to – or back to – the good ones. This takes time, it takes effort, it takes patience. A former coaching client of mine, with whom I once shared the Johari Window model, as a team coaching and delegation tool, told me that “Johari” or “zohari”, depending on dialect, means “Goldsmith” in Hindi. He added that it is believed “Goldsmiths can create diamonds with basic carbon”. Isn’t that lovely? And even if England don’t bring back the World Cup, we can all concentrate on turning ourselves, and our teams, into diamonds who deliver the goods and make our workspace a great place.
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