Why Always Football? The Idea Behind My New Book

I woke up last Friday with a brutal determination to complete the book I’ve been scandalously reading for six weeks: Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer by David Winner. I’ve been reading like five other books simultaneously and I somehow got stuck reading this book but I took a stance to kill it that time and it was mission accomplished. Brilliant Orange is one of the materials for my new book, What Football Teaches About Life which I’ve been prepping for as if I’ll get a Pulitzer for my worries. I have  also been reading and enjoying so many books that I’m wondering when I’m going to finish mine and if I’ll even be able to take my narrative to the standard I’m now used to!

Back to the book, Brilliant Orange— man, that was one heck of a brilliant read! The more I read the book, the more it seemed that the book was increasing! So deep and detailed for a 279 page book, giving a neurotic, historic, architectural and even Semitic explanations into what culminated into the formation of Dutch soccer as we know it—or maybe as we don’t know it. I had to scream at some point—it’s OK author, I’m tired of the facts and diagnosis! I had thought that Franklin Foer’s How Football Explains The World is all there is to a thought-provoking football book(Franklin still wrote the forward though), but while Frank’s book deservedly earns its place in the fusillade of football tomes out there, this David Winner bloke takes it higher. If you want to just read about soccer stuff, visit goal.com or givemesport.com, but if you want to task your noggin and know about the idea of Dutch soccer—and appreciate the precision, psychology and maneuverings in the modern game, this is the book to read. Unfortunately, I don’t want to be a soccer coach otherwise this would have inspired me to develop some tactics that Johan Cruyff and Rinus Michels would have envied!


Now I’m reading The Beckham Experiment: How the world’s most famous athlete tried to conquer America by Grant Wahl, an award-winning senior writer at Sports Illustrated.These writers are bad…! This one too is another Hollywood blockbuster-like read, taking one into the machinations that led David Beckham, one of world’s most intricate brand into an unconquered territory—America— and all there is to fame, public expectations and exploitations. Like Jeff Pearlman, author of Boys Will Be Boys enthused in his blurb, “David Beckham’s American odyssey is often too bizarre to believe, and Grant Wahl captures it all with uncommon depth, precision, and insight. Forget Beckham—Wahl is the Pele of soccer writers. A brilliant book.” If Wahl is the Pele of soccer writers, (and Pele is the best player of the century), I say forget Pele, O.P.Philips is the Cristiano Ronaldo of soccer writers, even if he says it by himself!


So what better to write this week than to talk about what made me delve into reading all these books and my knack for extrapolating football lessons to analyze life matters? Maybe I should just take you a little back to the beginning and how it all started. I’ve always had a predilection for football. Call it my first love and you’d be making sense. I remember growing up breaking all the breakables while negotiating curls of Beckham free kicks and pulling my Okocha moments. My mum told me not too long ago that she knew I was going to play football! I shot an askance look at her as though she was mocking me! Phew! You’ve got to be kidding me! This was one person that made it difficult for me to play on the streets because she was trepid I was going to get my butt kicked! And did I really play football? Save the escapades on the streets of Lagos and the turfs of local academies, did I really play? Where are the memorabilia and the swapped jerseys that I got playing big games that dominated my subconscious many years back? Did I really score the winning goal in my debut for Manchester United on a European night? Where are the evidences of my athleticism and the working of my socks off? Somebody wake me up and tell me it’s not over! Thoughts of what wasn’t to be have always dominated my subconscious and I still feel that I am one of the most combative midfielder the world never knew—shame!

(But I can still come back, I feel I have a few more years in me—you don’t want to write me off!)My mum is awesome though—she’s raked up a lot of assists for me in the course of my life… and we are now focusing on the next game.

From all my dealings with soccer as a rookie or a fan, I’ve always realized that there are lessons it teaches—small wonder that I have embedded it into the core of my lingua. If I buy a new shirt—I would rather say I “signed” a new shirt, or if I get something elusive I could say that I have “equalized” and I often celebrate with a “yes!” in a rambunctious fashion in my eureka moments. I also like saying that I’ll have to attack when I really want to go out for something. My rumination on the game brought about the awakening that football could give us unbelievable clues about life because it’s so practical—we can see the consequences of actions and inaction real time. That possibly explains why football terminologies have found its rightful place into the core of our metaphors as well. We say things like raise your game and give it is not over until it is over (sounds like Fergie time!), something we got from sports— football.

I thought that if we look at the scenarios in football, especially in the context of the organized modern game, we can glean out useful lessons that can teach us a thing or two in every facet of the human endeavor. Take competition for example. The modern sport games are all competitive, and soccer at the highest level thrives on competition. It is an arena where elite athletes with ego compete week in, week out in games and where everyone wants to be at the helm. It is in this spirit—Agon—that the modern games thrive. We see it in the ancient Olympics and it is still there today. A healthy competition is a good catalyst for growth and I will be marshaling a set of arguments in my new book on why it is so, through the lens of football and comparisons from other domains. My observations are not just limited to competition, which dovetails into innovation, there are also other segments worthy of examination: practice, mental toughness, emotional intelligence, physical fitness, adaptability (on and off the pitch), time management, talent recruitment and management, self-discipline and a tad more. I’m particularly relishing the prospect of using soccer to attempt to answer some philosophical questions like the belief in a God— or gods— and such notions as luck and forces beyond control in a chapter envisioned as “God of Soccer.” These I intend to do with the help of historical facts, data, anecdotes, interviews from elite soccer players and coaches, sport psychologists, analysts, successful entrepreneurs and experts who are really knowledgeable in areas that could help us find answers to these questions. Daunting as this may seem, I intend to go all the way and we are even creating a resource site (www.whatfootballteaches.com under construction) where there will be on-going conversations and where we can use football lessons for self and corporate growth. I believe it’s doable and together we can create a compelling read, using this thing we all love— football.

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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