Atletico de Madrid and the power of teamwork!

Last Wednesday, Atletico de Madrid destroyed knocked  out Europe’s bogey team—Chelsea FC, in the semi-finals of the European Champions League in a rather emphatic manner and afterwards  rival fans went agog on social media posting pictures of the Ill-fated Chelsea’s bus that was crushed at Stamford Bridge!  Honestly, I didn’t see that coming. Not that the latter are so invincible though, in fact they are far from it, but  in recent years, in what I dub the Abramovic era, since the extra pumping in of cash and  the evolution  that engulfed with Claudio Ranieri, they’ve formed an enviable habit of never-say-die and when you write them off, you do so at your own peril.

It is still fresh in the memory of soccer aficionados all over the world how they managed to wriggle from the brink of collapse in the 2012 Champions league campaign, a season that characterized them with lousy performances, but saw them attain the heights that was  hitherto a reverie, galloping their way through a fusillade of hurdles to an unprecedented European glory. I could remember that finals at the Allianz Arena where the whole atmosphere was tainted red while bubbling with the energy of expectant  fans who must have thought that fate have connived with them to set up a dream European final right in their home soil. Little would they know that the little horse, a term Jose Mourinho would prefer to tag his Chelsea pack this season, had other ideas—talking about party spoilers!What happened afterward is something that won’t worth any further elaboration—we know who went home with what. And even if they have been inconsistent in the English Premier League this season, Chelsea have managed to beat all the title contenders and are primed to be crowned champions should any of the champions-elect slip up. Liverpool won’t forgive them if they end up this season without the EPL coveted jewel after going so agonizingly close!

But thankfully today, I’m not here to talk about Chelsea or the tactics of the Special One(please spare me)! To the Blues chagrin, Atletico Madrid gave us something to shout about after Mourinho was almost forcing his way to Lisbon, parking the bus! Now, I can talk about Atleti and their brand of soccer. The outfit in red and white has been the surprise package of the season. Well maybe not so surprising after all if you consider their steady ascent to the echelons of European soccer since Diego Pablo Simeone, former Argentine International, a fine and controversial player in his days, took over a few years back. He has built one solid pack that thrives in unrivaled work ethic and has continued to post consistent results since then. In the past three years or so, the clubs trophy cabinet has been burgeoning—they’ve added two Europa cups, Super cup (beating Chelsea by 4-1) and winning the Copa del Rey at the Santiago Bernabeu against the Galacticos.

Another thing about this club is that it doesn’t break the bank to get the job done. They lose players to richer clubs every other summer, but the way they recover from that is pure genius. In recent years they’ve shed quality players like: Fernando Torres, Radamel Falcao, Sergio “Kun” Aguero, David De Gea. From the outset of this season, Atletico has been jostling  for top positions in  La Liga with the  richest franchise in football—Real Madrid, where a Gareth Bale for example—would cost  more than double  their entire team, and FC Barcelona with their  fat wage stars. In such a space that is dominated by these global heavy weights, Atletico has competed fine all season and are still  sitting pretty at the helm with no sign of relenting with just a few games to go. They’ve also  set up themselves for a dream European final—the first that would have teams from the same city contending for European glory, and their first appearance at this elite stage in 40 years. There is so much to say about this impressive side but I’m concerned about how they are able to achieve this feat. Is it because they have a perfectionist as  coach who will rant and rave in his customary black slim fit designer garb at the touchline like a child who desperately wants something off the shelf at the mall, or could it be that they have a generation of players that are so talented that it would take hindsight to appreciate their propensities?  Look no further, we could get a clue from Simeone’s response after the emphatic dismissal of Chelsea on Wednesday night:”Tonight was the result of a big collective effort. We generated that possibility of us reaching a beautiful final. It was a smashing game in the first half, tactically speaking, until the first goal opened it up. They had the first chance but we managed to equalize relatively soon afterwards.”

Teamwork is the key thing in successful soccer teams, which ever lingo you’d want to categorize the style preferred by a particular team—total football, effective football, tikitaka, jogo-bonito, or parking the bus. They all thrive in the ability of a pack to understand one  another so well that they are able to blend; they understand their strengths and weaknesses. In the case of Atletico—they play together all through the park—defensively and offensively. They never say die and they go into games with the mentality that by being together and fostering their strength in a formidable way, they can create paths in a rock. It will be nice to see this team win at least one trophy this season, and why not, the double. But no matter what happens at the Estadio do Sport Lisboa  e Benfica in Lisbon on May 24, this team has already left us with a powerful lesson from soccer— that we can be stronger being together, complementing one another. That’s one way to make the world go round.

O.P. Philips is a freelance writer/entrepreneur. He is the author of The “OBAMA” in You! His new book, “The Soccer Side of Life” will be released soon.

Follow him on Twitter@opphilips

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