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The Path To Victory- From The Football Pitch To Corporate Boardrooms

Football, a sport that engages people in billions on probably weekly basis, watching, debating, discussing and criticizing miniscule aspects of it. Probably, a great example of diverse viewpoints. Beyond the game on the pitch there are tactics; behind it there are coaches, managers, clubs; they, in turn, are propelled by different goals, varying philosophies. And for those who are looking, the game has management takeaways aplenty


Perception and thought can move mountains and can break rocks. However, the democracy of it is that anybody can have an angle, a line of thought towards the same thing. Perception scatters definitions. For example, a simple word- Conquest. There is a mountain, how do you conquer it? Move it? Or climb it?

Football is a sport that is so intense and full of tactical intricacies that it gives full scope, the scope for expressing the variety of perceptions which take space in our lives. Here are three lessons from the world of football management that would enrich corporate boardrooms-:


There is no magic formula for an ideal manager or a leader. In 1996, a lesser-known gentleman, Arsene Wenger joined the English football club, Arsenal, as their manager and changed the way the club was functioning. He came in and changed it all – the socio-ethical side of the game, the training. Wenger knew the importance of nutrition from his experience in Japan- he banned the players from eating chocolates and put an end to the booze culture, which was a part of nearly all clubs in the division!

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Not only did the results come in the form of victories and trophies but the stints of many players were prolonged. As Wenger and his style of management became successful, the other clubs followed the suit. Football clubs in England would never be the same again. Innovation, faith in your team and representation of your values through your work are probably the most important things a manager could have, be it in football or in a corporate setup. And all these qualities should be accompanied with bravery and honesty.


Pep Guardiola is a successful manager who made the brilliance of teams (Manchester City, Barcelona, Bayern Munich) seem routine. His micromanagement methods, however, seem really suffocating to some. But they do work, as his trophy cabinet proves.

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“The relationships and behaviour off the pitch between teammates have to be as good as possible,” Guardiola said in an interview to NBC Sports. Sir Alex Ferguson, ex-Manchester United manager who is god-like figure fans and pundits alike, was an example of a manager who knew how to make average players perform exceptionally. Optimization is the keyword and mantra for a successful team. And the coach or leader is there to enforce it.

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The best leader is one who has total belief in his ways and also the flexibility to adapt. Football coach Amal Dutta took everyone by surprise when he introduced the diamond system while coaching at Mohun Bagan. The formation yielded good results in the initial rounds of the Federation Cup. However, in the semi-final against arch-rivals East Bengal, Mohun Bagan lost 4-1. But Dutta’s determination and vision to see things differently is an asset that is valued highly in corporate boardrooms.

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Similarly, Manchester United’s manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s first order of business was bringing in young players who could sustain the club for years, rather than signing veterans for short-term success. He was never shy to let stars such as David Beckham leave when he felt they had run their course. Ferguson stressed the fact that no individual could be bigger than the collective and the harmony of a team is a pivotal aspect. This is a lesson that is equally true in a company boardroom.

Life and management lessons coming from the football pitch might sound a bit ironical, cause some corporate boardroom itself is pulling the strings of football teams, but still, a lesson learnt is always a gain and not a loss. Like German Coach, Sepp Herberger once famously said: “The ball is round and the game lasts 90 minutes. That’s a fact. Everything else is a pure theory”.

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