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The Many Ingredients Of A Great Team

Bola Bolawole
Posted: May 14, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


By Bola Bolawole

Assembling a great team is like preparing to cook a good pot of soup. A good chef with the right expertise is a sine qua non – but that is not the only ingredient needed. It may, indeed, not even be the most important of all the required ingredients. Procuring good quality ingredients is also very vital; the pepper, tomatoes, onions; vegetables etc. must be of the right quality and quantity. And the measurement and mix must be right – expertise and availability of funds also come in here. A pot of soup cooked with N500 will definitely taste differently from another pot of soup cooked with N5000, ceteris paribus, as the economists would say; that is to say, all other variables being equal or constant. However, holding other variables constant while funding alone determines the outcome may not always be very easy. It is not always a law cast in iron but at the same time we ignore the central role played by money to our peril; which is why the saying, “soup wey sweet, na money kill am” cannot be treated lightly. A great chef can have an off or bad day; carelessness or mistakes do occur in human affairs; unplanned-for circumstances and contingencies do occur sometimes to torpedo what had been gingerly arranged. There is always the unforeseen in the affairs of men. Good luck and ill luck are part and parcel of our existential living. While good luck smiles at someone sometimes; bad luck plays cruel jokes at other times.

A great coach does not necessarily make a great team; yet, it is a prerequisite if a team is to stand any chance of being consistently great. Great players do not guarantee success on the field of play; still, you need great players if you are to compete at the highest level and ride the competition. Claudio Ranieri, coach of the history-making Leicester football club, the new masters of the English Premier League, said the teams with the biggest purses would always win the available silverware. Yet, Leicester is the latest evidence that there are always going to be exceptions to this rule. As stated by the coach, this may happen just once in the space of 20 years, but the fact that it does happen is evidence that big bucks alone do not decide success in competitions. Ranieri himself is also incontrovertible evidence that a coach without pedigree may upstage the best hands in a competition. If great teams are those destined to always win, how come Chelsea, the defending champions, slumped miserably in the season drawing to a close? And if great coaches are all that is required for success, how come that the Chelsea slump happened right under the nose of one of the best coaches in Europe?

We must begin to apply our formula of the “soup wey sweet” to the teams that will be successful in getting the desired result. ***While we understand the place of big bucks – which helps a team to procure the services of a great coach and assemble talented footballers – we must also focus our attention on other variables that also play important roles to determine success or failure.*** Some of these variables money can buy; others are simply beyond the reach of cash. Great coaches make mistakes; success gets into the heads of some; no matter how competent a man may be, individuals have off or bad days; and when there is a plethora of great coaches, only one can cart away the prize, as the Apostle Paul admonishes, while the others become losers. Different coaches have their different philosophies to football: There are the “Surulere” or catch-them-young type, who believe in development football. Youngsters are groomed and made to mature through the ranks. There are also the “Olorunsogo” or parade-the-stars type, who go for already made stars. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes, youngsters lack the requisite experience, especially on the big stage and also towards the end of competitions. They start on a brilliant note but burn out along the line and when it matters most. The stars of this season may also, sometimes for inexplicable reasons, become the super flop of the next season. Again and again, we have seen players who shine like a million stars in one season fade out the very next season.

Perhaps the trickiest of the variables that play cruel jokes on teams is the spate of injuries. How do you determine players who will get injured and those who will not? Whereas there are players who have come to be labelled “injury-prone”, the fact is that it is extremely difficult to say who gets injured, when, and for how long. Good players have had to sit out whole seasons as a result of injury. Then there is the issue of new players settling down fast and well in new locations. Some acclimatize and settle in faster and better than others. How about the problem of rivalries and competition amongst team mates? When well handled by players and managers alike, it abodes well for a team as everyone struggles to give his best; but allow it to go awry and it can single-handedly ruin an otherwise great team. We should also not forget the important roles of supporters and, wait for it, referees in deciding where victory goes.

We return to our analogy of a good chef and all the variables he must necessarily contend with – his expertise in determining the right mix and the best time to introduce each item into the steaming pot of soup; the right quantity and quality of ingredients; holding free radicals at bay; and, then, mother luck. Having done all things expected of him, providence also plays its own role. So, watch cooking competitions and see competing chefs pray at the start of the competition – just as footballers gather to pray on the field of play!

The conclusion of the matter is this: There are far too many variables, seen and unseen, at play to determine who comes out tops in any competition. The one for whom most or all of the variables work out perfectly far more than the others will likely have the upper hand – provided there are no upsets! Upsets, like miracles, happen once in a blue moon.