Now that the 2022 FIFA Football World Cup is over there's another football battle taking place in the boardrooms and offices of football associations all over the world... The battle is to find the solution to qualifying for and performing with distinction at, the next FIFA Football World Cup.
Right now, as has been the case in so many post-World Cup postmortems, many football administrators are arriving at the inescapable, and to their minds the only possible obvious conclusion that the way for their nation to be more successful at the next World Cup is to try and buy victory. They believe that the only way forward is to pay a lot of money to recruit managers, coaches and football experts from another nation; a nation that has attained a higher level of success than their own nation achieved in Qatar.
And no matter how many times that strategy has failed in the past, it will be tried and it will fail again.
The reason being?
You have to play like it is your place.
Play, like it is your place, growing greatness
Over the past 50 years, we've seen the national football associations of many nations try to import excellence and shortcut success by recruiting coaches, managers and player development experts from other countries that they hope might hold the magic; the secret to football supremacy.
On the face of it, this seems logical.
Nation A won the Football World Cup.
(President of Nation B.)
Our nation finished 28th. Therefore if we recruit their World Cup team manager from Nation A and we import Nation A's coaching philosophies, we will also win the Football World Cup.
Here's the problem; it just doesn't work like that.
Young Argentinian football players aren't taught to play football Argentinian "style". They're taught to play football and they play the way they play because... they are Argentinian!
It's the same with young German football players, they don't arrive at their local football ground and receive coaching on the German "style" of football. They learn the basic skills of good football; passing and kicking and shooting and dribbling, but they play the way they play because... they're German!
Argentinian players, German players, Australian players, Dutch players, and players all over the world, all play the way they play because 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and for most of their lives they live, work, eat, sleep and train in their home nation. Their football is a product of everything they do, everything they see, everything they know, and everything they are.
Different "styles" of football aren't taught! They evolve naturally and organically by managers and coaches and players who are surrounded by the unique culture, geography, climate, environment, food, family dynamic, religion, history, politics and language of their home nation.
Put simply; you play like it is your place.
The goal-den rule: you can't replicate a football culture outside the culture that created it!
You can recruit a world-class manager: maybe even get the signature of the manager of the Football World Cup winners on a nice, fat, juicy, long-term contract.
And that manager might even bring with him/her their assistant manager, skills coaches and support staff.
If you're the CEO or the President of that national football association you're probably thinking:
We've done it! We've found the key to winning the Football World Cup! It's only a matter of time before we're celebrating in the grandstands while our national team is holding the FIFA World Cup Trophy aloft and singing our national anthem in front of billions of people staring at screens all over the world.
However, whilst there's no doubt these football recruits will bring some new ideas, brilliant strategies and innovative tactics to the elite football fields in their new "home" unless you can surround them and the players with the same culture and environment that created their unique brand of football genius, it's never going to work as well as it did in their home nation.
In other words, you can't import a football system or a football model or a football program from one place and make it work as well in another place.
The recipe for success: find out who you are, live it, grow it and work harder than anyone else
I've been in elite sports for over 30 years. I've been blessed and fortunate and just plain lucky to have the opportunity to work with some outstanding teams, brilliant coaches, remarkable athletes and amazing sports all over the world.
Where I see things that work, I mean really work; work so well that success becomes almost an inevitability, three ideals, three core principles drive everyone and everything:
- They know who they are: they have a clear sense of identity, and a well-defined unique culture and they know what it means to be who they are.
- They invest in people: people who will sustain and grow their unique culture.
- They work harder than anyone else in the competition.
Or if you like, otherwise:
So my advice to all you football administrators out there about to jump onto aircraft with large chequebooks and even larger contracts: don't, just don't!
- Invest in the kids in your own nation.
- Invest in your coaches.
- Invest in your officials; your referees and assistant referees running the lines.
- Invest in your clubs.
- Invest in developing your sport and most importantly invest in understanding your unique brand of football genius and accept and believe that the only true way to achieve greatness is to grow it in your own backyard.
Be patient! Focus on your purpose, your people and your practice and success will come!