Germany’s triumph in Brazil was a beautiful ending to one of the most enjoyable World Cup soccer (football) tournaments in recent years. However, beyond the joy of one’s favourite team lifting the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium, were lessons that warrant further comment.
Soccer, like all organised sports, has rules that have been agreed upon by all participants. The latter strive to obey these rules without trying to shift goalposts mid-play. Any breach of the rules results in consequences that are swiftly administered by an agreed upon independent, non-partisan referee, assisted by independent linesmen. There is no attempt to manipulate the process in order to give the champions a Kisanja (third term). That is why it was possible for Champion Spain to be tossed out of the series early, leaving the coast clear for others to pursue their dream on merit.
Throughout World Cup 2014, the Germans demonstrated what I call the “5P principles of success.” These principles, about which I hope to write a book in a short while, are (1) purpose, (2) plan, (3) priorities, (4) practice and (5) perseverance. They are as applicable to our personal lives as they are to soccer and other human endeavours. Clearly, the Germans’ strategy was founded on clarity of purpose. Like all teams, Germany went to Brazil to win the World Cup. They were not prepared to settle for second-best.
They devised plans that entailed thoroughly studying their opponents, and deploying their best players to maximise their advantages on the field. The German government and the German Football Association spared no expense to ensure success of their national team, as an essential investment for German pride and the economic opportunities.
The German soccer team practiced for months before Brazil and throughout the tournament. Such disciplined practice ensured that they remained in top form, ready to meet the expected challenges from equally formidable opponents. This was the same discipline that had enabled the Germans to become one of the great economic powerhouses of the world, their engineering products such as cars and audio hospital and industrial equipment easily outclassing those by their competitors. It is that kind of discipline that will boost Africa’s economies and other contributors to development.
The Germans’ perseverance, even after the surprise 2-2 draw with the lower-ranked Ghanaians, eventually took them to the semi-final match against Brazil that resulted in the great soccer “massacre” of Belo Horizonte. The 7-1 German victory left the hosts and their supporters around the world grief-stricken. The Cup was on its way to Berlin even before Sunday’s final match against Argentina.
Of course at the core of Germany’s success was that theirs was not an individual-dependent effort but one that placed teamwork above everything else. No single individual claimed credit for their success or blamed others for any failures.
Few moments were as moving as the post-match scene of Joachim Loew, the German coach, consoling Argentina’s Lionel Messi with a hug. It was a powerful sign of the victor’s sportsmanship. One longs for a similar sight after Uganda’s warlike elections.
One sobering lesson from the Brazilian soccer “massacre” was that numerous Ugandans were as grief-stricken as the Brazilians themselves, some reportedly wailing and mourning the loss of a soccer match. Understandable, of course, until one pauses to consider that on July 5, nearly 90 Ugandans were massacred in cold blood in the Kasese-Bundibugyo areas. There does not appear to have been the kind of national mourning and outcry either in Uganda or on the internet social networks such as that which followed the harmless Brazilian soccer “massacre” at the hands of the Germans.
Has humanity become so inured to actual death that fellow humans perish in that most horrible manner without triggering collective angst? What are our priorities?
Dr Mulera is based in Toronto, Canada. firstname.lastname@example.org