Lessons from the game of soccer

Hezbon at Santiago Bernabeu,Spain

As a staff member at the African office, one of the many exciting projects that I always look forward to is the Eastlands Solidarity Championship. This is an annual football or as Americans like to call it ‘soccer’ competition that integrates life skills training for young people in the slums of Nairobi. It is exciting because I am a football player, a big fan and am constantly impressed by the effectiveness of soccer to transcend boundaries, religions, race and class.

At a personal level, soccer has taught me a few life lessons that I would like to share. Football matches, like life itself, are all about getting the ball inside the net or scoring goals. As human beings we are ever racing to achieve our goals on a daily basis—some want to get that degree, wear those latest clothes, own a house, drive that new car model or play their societal roles better. In the soccer vocabulary some of the magical words that are prominently used include communication, character, attitude, belief, confidence, effort and discipline among others. These words are not only important in the soccer pitches, but are invaluable in our pursuit of life goals.

Skill is important but attitude, as is often said, determines one’s altitude (how high you can go). The winning attitude confronts head-on any obstacles in our path —human, economic or otherwise and real or imaginary. With the right attitude ‘small teams’ have been able to fell soccer giants. However big the challenges facing us may be, a good attitude can get us over them.

Failure is very common in soccer pitches as in life. Africa was ‘heart broken’ when Ghana was too close to qualify for the 2010 World Cup semi-finals, and was denied this chance by Uruguay. Failure will be there in life and does not have to be perceived as tragic. The tragedy is not rising again and ‘keeping on keeping on‘.

In teamwork, the sum of efforts can produce immeasurable results. We cannot always control the results, but we can control the effort we put in. These are a few of the many lessons that the beautiful game of soccer has taught me. 

Hezbon Mogambi is the WYA Africa, Regional Director of Operations

Eastland Solidarity Championship players in action