Friday, November 21, 2008


Soccer is a team sport. Team members have to work together off and on the pitch to achieve success on the pitch. Human nature often makes team work a challenge. Any team must have a leader to champion the team's aspirations and provide direction. The leader has to be a person of exceptional skills both in his trade as well as in his ability to marshal the team members and focus their individual energies to achieve the common goal. Among the players' ranks, the leader should undoubtedly be the captain. Being a player he has a closeness and understanding of other players that the manager may be unable to command. He has the manager's ear as the manager expects him to help translate his ideas on the pitch. Unfortunately sometimes teams have power brokers who are defacto leaders. A player may acquire this defacto status by virtue of his football prowess or years of service to the club or a special endearment to the club leadership or fan-base.

Before I bore you with a lecture on team work I would like to say that the house of Arsene Wenger is on fire and so is Bernard Shuster's. The house mates started the fire and are now frantically trying to distinguish it yet are without a clue on how to. The fire is being fanned by disunity, lethargy and a lack of leadership in these two respective houses. William Galas has just disclosed that a team mate who had issues with other team members has been disrespectful to him. He has particularly taken exception with this player's attitude considering that the said player is six years his junior. This begs one question though, Does Gallas deserve the captaincy (and the respect that goes with it)? Is he a leader? Is he forthright yet calm as a true captain should be? The answers to these questions are subjective but either way he is the chosen leader therefore he deserves respect. Leadership comes with a lot of responsibility that is difficult to assume without the necessary support. He has rightfully taken the flak for a series of poor performances, yet win or loss it's a combined team performance. Beyond this, I see a bigger
problem, a lack of leadership that runs deeper than just the captaincy. If Gallas is a poor leader then Wenger should take the blame for his appointment. Wenger should also have put in place measures to avoid or at least contain dissent from the youthful players. Youth comes with talent & exuberance but often it also comes with inexperience in many forms including lack of team work. Alex Ferguson did not entertain disrespect from some of his most useful and experienced players (read Berckham & RVN). Also, he has always given the captaincy armband to no-nonsense personalities like Roy Keene. Just out of curiosity who might this disrespectful player be? Adebayor? Vanpasse?

Now across the sea to the other house on fire…..While Arsenal is grappling with the challenges of containing a bunch of over exuberant youth, Real's problems are primarily due to lethargy. A common thread though is a clear lack of leadership. Why does a player like Raul wield so much power when it's obvious that he is at the sunset of his career? It's rumoured that he resisted the attempts to sign David Villa fearing that his place in the team would be jeopardized. Real is bemoaning injury problems, but what does one expect when you have a bunch of old overworked horses that should have been shot along time ago. On Schuster's appointment, he promised the fans that they would be seeing a return to the beautiful play that has been the pedigree of the los Merengues. In all honesty Real's play is the worst that I have ever seen. Its sheer agony watching a team with no commitment or even conviction in their ability (or the lack of it). When David Berckham & colleagues were teenagers playing for MAN-U's reserve team they would
liken themselves to Real when they had a successful and beautiful display on the pitch. Oh how the mighty have fallen!

What's the conclusion of the matter? It all boils down to leadership.To Wenger and Schuster all I can say is shape up or ship out but as for me, I wish you all the worst in your endeavours!

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