Life is a game, play it well; always noting that you cannot win in a game that you participate in mindlessly without a strategy or commitment. Greatness that comes without a cost to you is too cheap to be real. You do not afford the luxury of being half-hearted, half-committed, or half-invested. No half-hearted attempts can withstand the competitive onslaught of those who are going for greatness with passion and focus. Whenever it matters most, excuses do not count and circumstances are a neutral factor. Your background excuses or poor leadership do not count as a valid licenses for a poor showing on the grand stage. Get serious and get organised. Otherwise you will be eliminated in the early stages of any enterprise without having seen the big lights. You have all you need to write your own story.
Soccer is indeed the most beautiful game and the FIFA World-Cup Final Tournament is the global jamboree and celebration of the sport. Players, coaches, referees, suppliers, hosts, spectators, officials, sponsors, commentators, gamblers, security, scouts and other merchants come to display their best. Every nation is afforded the chance to compete under the rules set by FIFA, the governing body. The FIFA World Cup is a multi-billion dollar business enterprise that creates global opportunities at all levels. What you see matters. Other see only the matches, while others see the money. Held every four years, since 1930, each World Cup has its own signature, memories and highlights on and off the field of play. Each edition of the FIFA World Cup is packed with unforgettable lessons, stories and take-aways. Generations of players are imbued with national pride or saddled with national or personal problems. Never let your circumstances stop you from dreaming and seeing opportunities where others only see the balls rolling up and down the field. Opportunities are everywhere where people look for them.
The year was 1994, the hosts were the United States. Like any other FIFA World Cup it had its special highlights and it brings back memories buried in the past. Then I did not own a TV and had to watch the game under special arrangements. It was the first World Cup final to be decided on penalties, with Brazil upstaging Italy. Russia, taking the place of the Soviet Union which had disintegrated in 1990/1991, played their first World Cup competition as a new country. Greece, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia were first-timers. There is always an opportunity for you to do what you have never done before. The hope of Argentina, Diego Maradona, was banned mid-tournament after testing positive for recreational drugs resulting in Argentina’s elimination in the last 16 by Romania.
The unexpected also happens and sometimes what happens in the pitch has effects that are felt far from the venue. Nations’ hopes are dashed and their hopes ignited. The beautiful game od soccer is a two-edged sword. A lot is always at stake. The 1994 World Cup saw tragedy when Colombian defender Andrés Escobar was murdered ten days after his own-goal against USA in their first round match that eliminated Colombia. It was a sad day for the beautiful game. Mistakes of the past serve as lessons for the future. Whatever you go through always take some learnings.
Some games are charged with child-like emotion and tension. Others show mature sportsmanship. Other games keep you sitting on the edge and others send you to sleep. The 1994 World Cup final tournament was attended by about 3.6 million people, setting a record in World Cup history. Oleg Salenko of Russia became the first player to score five goals in a single World Cup finals game in his country’s 6–1 group stage win over Cameroon. This same match was historic in other ways. The legendary Cameroonian player, Roger Milla came into the game as a super-substitute. In player terms, Milla, then aged 42 was regarded a senior citizen of the pitch. Yet, he went on to score the consolation and only goal for Cameroon, becoming the oldest player ever to score in a World Cup match. Whatever you must do, get on with it and do it. Do not let a birth certificate tell you what you cannot do. You are as old as your fears, doubts and unbelief. You bare the right age for whatever dream you dare pursue. Is age not just a number?
Soccer games are played under prevailing realities not wished-for circumstances. So it is with the game of life. You do not play the game you wish to play, you play the match you have been drawn, under the circumstances you find on the day. While you may not choose your opponent, you choose your attitude to the game and your strategy. You tailor your strategy and style of play to the realities you face. Bloom where you are planted and play in the pitch you find yourself in.
You can never come to the World Cup hoping to win simply because in the last edition you won the World Cup. Being a defending champion marks you out as a special team to beat. What makes you a winner is usually not sufficient to keep you a winner. You have to take the game higher. Your strategies have to evolve. Past success is never a guarantee of future success. You cannot use history as an excuse for poor preparation or performance. So it is with life. You can never stop learning because life will also never stops teaching.
The first edition of the FIFA World Cup final tournament was held in 1930 in Uruguay. This tournament brought together 13 countries: 7 from South America, 4 from Europe and 2 from North America. Uruguay defeated Argentina 4–2 in the finals in front of 93,000 spectators in Montevideo to become the first nation to win a World Cup. Whether this will be case for the 2018 edition of the tournament in Russia, is still to be seen. Ultimately results are produced and not just predicted.
Uruguay has already scored a special distinction and record in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. This time it is not just about the players but the manager, Mr. Oscar Tabarez. He has been at the helm of the Uruguay team for 12 years and is affectionately known as “El Maestro.” So what makes him special? Tabarez is the oldest coach at the 2018 World Cup tournament at a mature age of 71 years. Do not let age rob you of your contribution in life. If you can still get up and do what you must do, get up and do it. Stop using other people’s commentaries and opinions as facts. Do not take yourself off the shelf of life before your sell-by date. Your active contribution and participation in life is too important to be retired early or subjected to other people’s negative opinions.
Oscar Tabarez started his career as a Primary School teacher. Before he hung his boots as a player he was an attacking defender at 6 international clubs. He has coached in Colombia, Argentina, Italy and Spain, and first managed the Uruguay national team from 1988 to 1990. He returned for a second spell in 2006 and has been at the helm ever since. He has taken the Uruguay team to four World Cup finals, reaching the semi-final in 2010. He has brought discipline to the team and raised Uruguay’s image and soccer development pipeline. Many people move too quickly before they have mastered much. Stick to the knitting and stop floating like the wind. Mastery takes time.
Tabarez is the only coach who uses a crutch. He has said that he suffers from chronic neuropathy and others say that he suffers from Guillain-Barre syndrome, originally reported in 2016. Whatever the case, what is important is his attitude towards the disease. He is a fighter and has refused to be defeated. Attack your challenges boldly. Tabarez continues to coach and work with his team from the touch line with the aid his crutch. Otherwise after a good brief he sits on the bench and lets the team do what they must do. He knows that coaching is not just about barking orders. In 2016 he told reporters: “I will continue as Uruguay coach at least until the results say otherwise. When you are coach you know you are displayed by the results.” Numbers do not lie. Your results reveal who you are.
It is this attitude of Tabarez that you must have to become great in your own field and sphere of concern. What does it really take to stop you? Stop fearing and start doing. Down play your age and play up your competence. Challenge disease or any form of disability and focus on your ability. Ignore other people’s negative opinions and focus on your passion. You do not stop driving because there are obstacles in the way. You do not stop believing because everything in easy. Go for greatness and use all the inspiration you can get. Do not stop learning because life will never stop teaching. Enjoy the beautiful game.
Committed to your greatness.