Football is arguably the most loved sport on the planet and my close to twenty five years journey as a soccer fan has been quite insightful especially when you consider the abundance of major leagues and championships throughout the world. The big business involved, the availability of technology and abundance of skills and expertise had over the years made football in Europe the most competitive in the world. You have the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League which are major competitions among the top football clubs in Europe. You also have the English Premier League, the German Bundesliga, the Spanish La Liga and other major national football leagues across Europe. Aside major competitions like the FA Cup and the Charity Shield, the English Premier League (EPL) itself has consistently been one outstanding league. From the days of the Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole’s Manchester United lethal combination to the Thierry Henry days when Arsenal became invincible and even till the present Manchester City superlative form, the EPL has not been without its own share of drama and historic moments. Anyway, the crux of this piece is to highlight some of life’s lessons I have over time been able to draw from my observation of this beautiful game. They mirror some of life’s profound insights and the wisdom therein.
1. It is never over till you win. Every team goes into the match planning to win and every moves, tactics and strategy become crucial to this victory. The coach stays on the sidelines watching these every move, spotting strengths and assessing weaknesses. It does not matter who is leading even at half time. The other team could catch up and might even go ahead to clinch the victory, so consistency is key. Victory could be lost at the last minute and change of key players or strategies at anytime could be the game changer. The power to focus and stay consistently hard working is key to a victorious life. You cannot afford to put your hand to the plough and look back. You must stay strong, stay focused, keep improving and adapting to life’s changing situations per time.
2. There is no all time champion. It is not uncommon for a club to win the premiership in a season and struggle to make the top four in the next. It is actually possible for an average premier league club to clinch the league title if they really put their mind to it like Leicester City Football Club did in the 2015/2016 season. No condition is permanent as far as the premier league is concerned. You can be down today and be on top tomorrow, The same way you can be the best today and just a single factor like the injury of a key player can send you reeling to the bottom. Infact, winning the premiership back to back has been such a tremendously difficult task that just very few clubs have been able to achieve this feat. It takes consistent hardwork to sustain success and a great deal of resilience to survive when things are going south. Life is never a bed of roses. Only the strong and resilient thrive.
3. Even the smallest of all can defeat the biggest of all. It is always funny when you see a team struggling at the bottom of the table defeat a team at the top. It is often a case of ‘he that is down need fear no fall’ or the team just playing their hearts out to avoid being relegated to a lower league. The Goliath overconfidence of the better team too does not always help matters as it always ended up becoming their Achilles heel. Life’s defeat is most times about the little foxes that spoil the vines. They are usually the tiny details of life that get taken for granted. Those little things that initially do not seem to matter only for them to eventually be the harbinger of the greatest havoc. Take care of the little things. Do not underestimate the seemingly trivial challenges because you never can tell when your nipping it in the bud would be what would save the day!
4. Even the best spend more to sustain being on top. While it cannot be concluded that financial strength is the only factor responsible for a club’s success, it is definitely a major one. A rich club will have the financial muscle to procure the services and abilities of the best of players. They will have the resources to hire top notch coaches and provide them and the team with the best of materials and facilities. The richer the club, the easier for it to position itself for the top. Little wonder, the richest clubs in the world are the ones getting the best of players and garnering all the major trophies. When you have the means and your spending power is high, you can make a lot things happen and even in life, being wealthy gives you an advantage and places you on a pedestal where it is easier to make things happen.
5. Referee’s decision is final. The referee is human and so prone to mistakes and bad judgment calls, yet whatever he decides become binding on all parties. Right or wrong, fair or not, he wields the power to make or mar and like life, he can be a big factor in determining how well you will emerge. A victorious life will always be prepared to thrive inspite of adversities and succeed against all odds. Things always turn out best for those who make the best use of the ways things turn out so even when life is unfair as it can oftentimes be, you will weather the storm and come out blazing. Life’s stumbling blocks will become your stepping stones.
6. Possession does not always translate to victory. You can be the team playing well and by strategy (especially as regards knowing when and where to strike) or sheer luck the other team scoring the goals. Life happens. Sometimes you do all the work and someone else reap the rewards and at other times what you get might not be commensurate with your applied efforts. The upside is that it is also possible for you to reap the rewards for someone else’s labour and even get so much more than your efforts actually deserves. Speaking of when grace and favour works for you, you stress less and achieve more. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path. When you trust God to build your house. When you trust Him to guide and direct your hustle, you will never labour in vain.
7. Sometimes you loose the battle to win the war. This is a military tactic often used on the field of play. There are times the team with the superior talent, skills and experience deliberately slow down the game or allow the other team to do all the running around and even score a goal or two, eventually wearing themselves out before they unleash all their firepower, overtake and thrash them black and blue. This is usually when the other team is known to lack staying power. Life turns out best for those with the foresight to see into the future. They are able to effectively map out strategies and take advantage of the present and in nearly all cases, they have a sound mastery of the times and understand what it takes to overcome. For them, life is a series of twists and turns and wisdom is key to the victorious life.
8. To whom much is given, much more is expected. Football clubs hire coaches and pay them according to their expertise and ratings. The desires of the club management and how much they are willing to spend then determine the coach’s mandates. He is expected to surpass these mandates or at worst deliver the exact results demanded. The accumulation of these results over time determine the coach’s ratings. Failure to perform could lead to dismissal or at best a second chance but there is usually never a third chance except there is an unwavering faith in him by the club’s management team or it is all part of the club’s long term plan. In life they say ”the bigger your head, the bigger your headache.” The higher you go and better you become, the more responsibilities you take on and the more the demand placed on your abilities and resources. It is expected that your impact be commensurate with how well off you are in life. That is what makes your life effective.
9. The law of diminishing returns will always set in. There is a point at which every ability plateau in life after which is starts to diminish. Productivity increases as one gets older and become better till it peaked at some point, the so called ‘glorious days’ after which it starts to diminish even as productivity reduces significantly with time especially because of ageing as the physical body start to deteriorate. Make hay while the sun shines aptly captures the essence of maximizing one’s potential and impacting lives to the fullest while one is young, fresh and vibrant. Life is times and seasons. It is wisdom to understand the times, make meaningful mark and leave the stage when the ovation is loudest. That is how you finish strong.
10. There are the players who make things happen, the spectators that watch things happen, and the referee/match commissioner who decides what happens. These are the three broad categories of people in life. There are those who never make any mark in life. They are either busy criticizing others and are usually bystanders with much talk and no action or are just too lazy and laidback to make any meaningful impact. There are also those who make history. They are the ‘doers’ who sowed the actual toil and sweat to make things happen. They are inspired and strive to leave their footprints in the sands of time. The referee signifies the God factor. He gives bread to the eater and seed to the sower. The Almighty God whose judgment cannot be questioned. Disobey or ignore Him at your own peril. Following His will and abiding by His instructions is fundamental to living the victorious life.