If a nation can, YOU CAN.

Amazed by the rise of the fringe footballing nations in this Fifa WC, I started reading about Belgium and how this golden generation of the Belgium National Football team came into being.

A meagre nation with only a population of 11 million people (Parisian Suburbs have a population of 12 million), Belgium’s gameplay wasn’t dominated by the mesmerizing Hazard’s and the De Bruyne’s before. Infact, in 1998, after witnessing his country losing to France, a former professional goalkeeper for Belgium, Bob Browaeys was upset about his country’s disorderly gameplay, lacking in creativity and possession. On the other hand, he was envious of France, mesmerized by the Zidane’s and the Henry’s.

It was then that this former GK, started a revolution. Combining a few other colleagues, he took on the responsibility of improving Belgium’s footballing prowess. They did not only change the way football was played by the National team, but looked into every professional match being played in Belgium at every age group, and analysed what could be improved.

After looking at hours of video, and analysing the collected data, they drew a roadmap that focused on every professional football club in the country and how football is played in it. Clubs were encouraged to play more posession based football, enabling players to do creative things with the ball.

As time passed, a different footballing culture developed, which over a period of 15 years has led this Belgium team knocking the ever fluent Brazil out of the WC.

If a country with 11 million people can change the very way in which it plays football, can’t a company with a few thousand employees invest in it’s culture to reap dividends in the long term? Can’t an individual go back to his basics and lay a stronger foundation which enables him to solve even the most insurmountable tasks?

All it needs is passion, a will to change the way.

Darpan Jain

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What the Iceland National Football Team teaches us..

While contemplating about Iceland’s meteoric rise in World football, I came across an article in the daily newspaper, which not only increased my fascination for the nordic nation, but also got my grey cells working.

Football wasn’t a hugely popular sport in Iceland until 2012, when it’s National Team coach, Heimer Hallgrimsson started off a rather unusual routine.

Before every game with the national team, Heimer used to go to a local bar and discuss his team’s playing XI, the formation and the strategy that they were going to adapt in the upcoming game. He didn’t do this with his fellow coaching colleagues, but with 15 or odd national team supporters who were regular customers at the bar.

After every game, he would return and seek feedback on how the strategy worked, what went wrong etc. Doing this with a set of supporters who were novices in respect to tactical acumen wasn’t primarily aimed to get wonderous strategic advice, it was meant to involve the supporters and make them support the national team.

Slowly, the bar’s population increased from 15 to 500, and the Football stadium’s strength increase from 30% to more than 100%. The stadium were now packed with supporters singing their team on to glory.

In a big company with huge number of employees, the motivation to work can falter, given that most employees don’t feel valued enough and hence, have no particular interest in the organization’s success. At this time, it is this humbleness, this small step of connecting with them, involving them in decision making, that can do wonders. Not only can you get an out of the box advice once in a while, but what you can get is a committed workforce, which can help you beat even the big giants.

Don’t forget, Iceland drew with Argentina in the WC, and topped their group during qualifying, pipping Croatia that beat Argentina 3-0.

Sometimes, small things can get you big results. Sometimes, being humble and reaching out can prove to be a difference.

What England’s 481 against Australia teaches us..

As a kid, I used to ask my father, ‘Dad, why is it that cricket teams score 200+ in T20s, but manage to score only 300 or at the most, 350 in rare cases? Shouldn’t they be scoring 400 and above considering that they are capable of scoring over 10 runs per over from the beginning?’

My father answered, ‘Son, as the number of overs increase, teams change their strategies and plan accordingly. In an ODI, a team has 50 overs, and it has to build a solid base so that it can maximise it’s score towards the end, and achieve the best possible score. If it starts hitting from the beginning, it might as well get wrapped up inside 30 overs’.

It seemed rational. As a professional cricketer myself too, I planned according to the number of overs left. Higher the number of overs left, the less risks you shall take. You should deal in singles and doubles, and go for the huge hits at the end.

However, as time changed, strategies changed. There was a time in the 1990s, when scoring 250 in 60 overs was considered an above par score, and then there was a time when 300 in a 50 over game was a good score. Now, we see teams crossing 350, even 400. We see individual players scoring double centuries.

What has changed?

The teams and the players have surely started taking more risks, but they are planned risks. They are calculated risks. They know their capabilities, and they know a loose ball has to be dispatched no matter when it is bowled; in the beginning or at the end. Even though the teams know that having wickets in hand during the latter overs and playing out the overs of the top bowlers of the opposition, would put them in a good position to capitalise at the end, they know that putting top bowlers under pressure and having a decent scoring rate from the beginning will give them a huge advantage.

Similarly, in the business environment, building a base is important. Being cautious in the beginning is important. However, not taking opportunities when they come can come to haunt you later. Not taking advantage of a vacuum that a competitor has left and playing it safe, would not get you that match winning score. Grabbing opportunities and taking risks is important. It is imperative to knock the competitor off his comfort zone. It is essential to sometimes step out and smack the ball for a six to remove that silly point fielder breathing down your neck.

Calculate and move forward. Make the most of the opportunities that come to you.

Ps:- There’s learning everywhere, be it a cricket match or a business summit.