Football is the most watched, most played and most talked about game in the world.
But my beloved country India, which houses 1/6th of the world population, is woefully ignorant about this beautiful game.
We are content being the No-1 cricketing nation (a newly acquired status in the longer version of the game called the “Tests”) in the world; a game played by not more than a dozen odd countries.
To me football was a game played by robust people who tackle one another most bravely in an effort to get possession of the ball and put it into the other team’s net.
A nation like India, comprising largely non-meat eaters can’t hope to have players with leg muscles that can sustain them for a 90 minute plus game as intense as football.
Indian diet is good for gentler games like badminton, in which we are among the Top 5 nations. Games requiring less brawn but enhanced mental prowess like chess, billiards and snookers are also good for us. And we are very good at the shooting range too.
The reason for such a long preface is to confess that my knowledge of the game of football is as scanty as Hillary Clinton’s knowledge of diplomacy.
Both of us are trying though.
The only difference is that I don’t make a living out of football but she does earn her salary by being the Minister of State of the great US of A.
The Eagles that soared to semis
And talking about football takes me to the saga of Coach Shuabibu Amodu, the coach who MAY be axed tomorrow in spite of ACHIEVING the targeted task of taking Nigeria to the World Cup in 2010 and reaching the semi-finals of Africa’s Nations Cup.
Let us also be mindful of the fact that the Coach achieved this despite the fact that the Flying Eagles squad comprises of stalwarts who hardly ever played together as a close unit, much unlike the young Ghanians and the mature Egyptians.
Why is it that Coach Amodu, instead of being feted is being subject to so much humiliation?
Is it the case that the Nigerian team did well, not because of the coach but in spite of the coach?
In which case, why did the same team did so badly under the previous coaches?
Or is it that the team won its matches by successive strokes of good luck although the team didn’t play hard enough to win them?
Or is it that we as the people, reward EFFORTS and not RESULTS?
I hear people say that the only time Nigeria played really well was in semi-finals of the Nation’s Cup when they lost 0-1 to Ghana.
So are we OK to play well and lose and NOT OK when we don’t play well and yet win
What do we reward? RESULT or EFFORTS?
What is good performance?
Let’s leave football aside for a moment and discuss the concept of performance. A paid or unpaid performer performs badly, averagely or handsomely against the previously set targets.
The CEO of a company may lead a company to a 1 Billion Naira profit in a financial year but he may still earn the tag of being a bad performer if the target set for him was to rake in a profit of 3 Billion Naira.
Similarly a business leader may make a loss of 1 Billion Naira to achieve the desired market share and may yet be called successful if the shareholders had mandated him to aggressively fight the competition and grab that market share by employing the strategy of cutting the prices up to the extent of making a maximum overall loss of N 2 Billion Naira.
So Performance is closely linked to results. Isn’t it?
You may say that I am digressing and discussing business.
But isn’t Football a big business and aren’t all big businesses a bit like the game of football now-a-days?
So if my hypothesis is correct then the following equation emerges:
GOOD Performance = Meeting Targets
BAD Performance = Failing to meet the targets
Now let’s come back to the game of football
As I said earlier, I am trying to familiarize myself with the game of football. I support the Flying Eagles of Nigeria and even though I may not know the names of all the players of Flying Eagles team, I know that they were earlier coached by a German man who went by the name of Berti Vogts.
Berti frequently threw tantrums at not being paid in advance and largely tried to manage a Nigerian national team by living outside Nigeria!
The guy resigned (mind you RESIGNED, he wasn’t SACKED) after 13 months and during his stint that ended in early 2008, this guy did such a shoddy job that no one gave the flying Eagles even a slim chance of being in the World Cup in 2010, if the team were to continue under him.
Coach Amodu not only ensured that the Flying Eagles qualified for the World Cup 2010, he ensured that Nigeria finished third in the Nation’s Cup.
But what’s the fate of Coach Amodu?
From the Taxi driver to the Oga Pota Pota, all are baying for Amodu’s head.
“He has no strategy Sir,” says the Okada driver who wears his helmet with its front side backwards.
“The guy is just lucky that the other teams played badly,” says my friend who is the Executive Director of a new generation bank in Nigeria.
But isn’t a bad strategy worse than NO strategy, even if I were to assume that the man had no strategy?
And why is it that when my team wins, the other teams played badly and when I lose, I played a horrible game?
Why can’t we say that this Flying Eagles team was undone by a stroke of bad luck in the semis?
Why hang a Coach who achieved his targets?
But as I said that I still new to the game of football!
And I am still learing.