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We have just recovered from a thrilling UEFA Champions League final and are now ready for some more exciting football with the Euro Cup. There are many lessons to be learned from football (and this is true for team and individual sports as well) and so, with my cleats on, here we go:

  • Activity versus productivity. Some of the great matches are keenly fought over 90 minutes with one team dominating ball possession. Yet, it is not about how long you keep the ball amongst your team members, putting it across the goal line is what creates victories.
  • Teams and stars. A team sport is a team sport and while the superstars do stand out, it is always the combined effort of the team that matters in the end. A case in point is the semi-final of the Champions League where both losing sides had the top players on their teams – Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Both of these players missed penalty kicks which could have produced different results.
  • Rules don’t stifle creativity. We often get hung up on company and industry rules as an excuse for not being creative enough. Yet football shows us that it is possible to have global rules governing the game and different sides bringing completely different styles to the party.
  • Back-office support. While the players get covered in glory, they would be completely lost without the strong support of a large number of people – managers, physio trainers, luggage handlers, et al. And yes, each one has a business manager, too.
  • Preparedness. To play attacking football for 90 minutes, how fit do you need to be? The countless hours of training and personal sacrifice that go into the making of an international player is amazing. Players also need to deal with physical and emotional issues and must be prepared for them.

Yes, there are many lessons for management in sport; now let’s go out and play!

 Leon Menezes
The writer is General Manager, HR, at a multinational company.

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on June 10, 2012.