Clem Sunter

The foxes have won

2016-05-03 07:47

Clem Sunter

Even though I am a Chelsea football supporter, I have to celebrate the fact that Leicester City who are nicknamed “the foxes” have won the Premier League in England. Last night, Chelsea clawed back a two goal deficit to draw with Spurs 2-2 and hand the foxes one of the most prestigious soccer trophies in the world. They are uncatchable with two matches to go. I hope Chelsea give them a guard of honour in the final game between the two at Stamford Bridge.

 It was most fitting that Eden Hazard who scored the goal that gave Chelsea the title last year was responsible for the second Chelsea goal against Spurs, which decided the title this year.

For me the outstanding feature of Leicester City’s accomplishment is the leadership style of its manager, Claudio Ranieri. He took a team that last year narrowly escaped relegation and were 5 000 to 1 outsiders at the start of this season, and turned them into a team of champions. None of the players including their top scorer Jamie Vardy was a star before this season like Wayne Rooney. Yet they combined to produce star performances and have rewritten the history books.

The point about Ranieri, who previously did a stint as the Chelsea coach, is that he comes across as a genuinely nice guy with a deep sense of humility. He is the exact opposite of so many managers who hog the headlines ahead of the individuals who make up the team they are managing. Indeed, he was not able to watch last night’s game as he was on a flight back from Italy after having lunch with his mother who turned 96 yesterday.

The outstanding thing is that his leadership style does not get in the way of each person he leads finding his own personal path to greatness. At the same time, he cultivates a sufficient degree of team spirit that nobody wants to act in any way that undermines the performance of the others in the side. Everybody realises that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and synergy is the key. Wes Morgan, his captain, has exactly the same leadership qualities and plays a special role on the pitch to ensure this balanced approach is implemented.

I have watched several recent games played by the foxes and what stands out is the intensity with which they pass the ball when they have it in their possession. The opposition may well end up with a greater percentage of the overall possession during the game, but they have lacked the creativity of the foxes in converting that possession into a goal. Moreover, the defence of the foxes has been so superlative that they have won many of their games 1-0. Their goal difference is well below Spurs but they have had the perseverance to hang onto a lead unlike Spurs last night.

Why is the victory of the foxes so relevant in the greater scheme of things? Simple. Nations are just much larger groups of human beings than soccer teams. If a nation wants to give all its citizens a better quality of life in a material as well as a spiritual sense, then its leadership has to have two objectives in mind: nurturing ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things; and doing so in a quiet and humble way that makes those people feel part of one and the same remarkable team.

Individual success is a precondition for collective success. But the interaction between the two is the key to a sustainable and positive future.

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