One Game At a Time!

There are just about eight games left in the English Premier League and the quarter-finals for the UEFA Champions Europe have been fixed—everything is now racing towards the climax of the season. While some leagues are almost a done deal for the league leaders like the Bavarians in Germany and the Old Lady of Italian football, some still leave room for some speculation. In spite of the fact that the Catalan Giants saw the better of the Galácticos in last Sunday’s El Clásico and have gone 4 points clear now, I think that league is still not in the kitty.

Manchester United had their pound of flesh over Liverpool at Anfield with another good performance after walloping Tottenham Hotspur with an emphatic 3-0 a week before. The Red Devils dismissed their archrival courtesy of a spectacular show from Juan Mata whose two finishes were made in heaven. In the second half of that game, outgoing midfielder and club cult hero Stephen Gerald earned some ignominy when he was introduced to the game in the second half and managed to last for just 46 seconds before going for a rash tackle on Ander Herrera that left the Spaniard limping for a while. Although, Daniel Sturridge pulled a goal back, It was a sweet completion of the revenge double over Liverpool this season as United suffered similar fate with them last term; hopefully, Louis Van Gaal’s men can go ahead and qualify for the Champions League next season.

For the league leaders Chelsea, the English Premier League is theirs to lose and the prestigious silverware will be going to Stamford Bridge for the first time in five years if they are able to keep their focus. The Blues did themselves a grand favour by acing Hull City last weekend, having lost a two goal advantage. A strike from Loïc Rémy in the last quarter of the game fumbled by the Hull goalkeeper was all that was needed to take them a step further to their imminent destination. It is worthy of note, however, to say that Chelsea’s form has not been the best lately and they’ve not been crushing teams with the steam and vigor they started the league with. That could be owed to fatigue though, but having won the Capital One Cup and exited the FA Cup and the Champions league, Jose Mourinho’s troop can now focus on wrapping up the league.


                          Relief! Loic Remy’s striker gave Chelsea six points cushion

Jose Mourinho is a manager who knows how to win the league and would be fancied to lead them over the murky waters in the remaining nine games that they have. He sure would marshal his team toward taking the games as they come and not just setting their minds on winning the league and allowing a blizzard of pressure to flood in. After the last game, he was cautious to say, “I’m not pretty sure, I’m pretty confident. I believe in my players, I believe that we can do it but I know it’s difficult.”


     Mourinho is experienced enough to take his troop to the finishing line

Talking about winning leagues, Sir Alex Ferguson, the legendary coach of Manchester United who won a record 13 league titles in his trophy-laden reign at Old Trafford in his first autobiography “Managing My Life,” talked about not setting your eyes too far ahead when you are trying to achieve a goal. It was the year 1999 when it was becoming apparent that his team could do the treble and the press went agog, fantasizing on how Manchester United was going to achieve this historic feat. When the Boss was confronted with the impending prospect, he recalled that he had nothing to say that was distinct from a shopworn comment of a bluffing football manger.

We were now leading in the premiership and were in the semifinals of both the European cup and the FA Cup, and press speculation about the treble had begun in earnest. Those who asked us to comment on our chances of completing it knew the answer in advance. How could we say anything other than that we would deal with one match at a time? It is better to be clichéd than crazy. Letting the mind skip over immediate assignments and on to future possibilities is a good way to wreck concentration. A rock climber who starts thinking about hand-holds twenty feet above him will take a short-cut to the ground. When I did think two or three games ahead, it was not to conjure up dreams of triumph but with the practical purpose of working out the team changes that might keep us fresh for the recurring challenges produced by pressing forward on several fronts.


Sir Alex Ferguson and his treble-winning squad

I could also relate with Fergie’s stance on one particular note. My team and I have been trying to set up a website for my forthcoming book What Football Teaches About Life. It was not going to be your run-of-the-mill book website; it was supposed to be a resource site where we could useful lessons from football to highlight how to achieve self and corporate goals. I agonized over how I wanted the site to be topnotch from the outset with all the stuff in place: a sleek homepage, a resource page reeling with tons of EBooks and rich articles from impeccable sources. I also wanted us to have our podcast running, with interviews from elite soccer players, coaches and other relevant people. I wanted everything to be ready at once and for weeks we got stuck in this impasse which was compounded with a false start when the first web designer we got opted out and left us in the lurch. What happened at first was that we had our eyes set on winning the trophy rather than taking it one game at a time. Then one day it hit me like a pang—building a website is like building a house—you’ll take it from the foundation to the roofing— then you can talk about adding the finishing. You usually don’t erect the house in one day except a genie appears before you and ask you to make a wish!


After that time, I decided that we drop our treble-winning ambition and just focus on our next game without any bells and whistles. That gave me the energy to concentrate and give out the job to another designer. This time around we were lucky to get a topnotch guy and our website is up! Fine, it’s still a work in progress and you can’t even download the free chapter promised yet!  But we’ll build it gradually— the way champions win games— and hopefully, we can get the result that we want.

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

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