The football strategy: find vacant positions and play there

What is the vacant space in your environment or life? Are you always fighting with others to unseat them or you find your own

What is the vacant space in your environment or life? Are you always fighting with others to unseat them or you find your own free space and occupy it? Apply the footballer strategy (explained below) to bring peace and satisfaction to your life and career.

I used to love playing football while growing up. Today, I love watching it. During my primary and secondary school days, I played as “No. 9.” And I was damn great at it. Number nine is a striker’s playing position with one primary objective: use any chance to score as many goals. I had all it took – agile, strong and fast. I would collect the ball, run as fast as I could, and hit it hard.

I was so good that my classmates often referred to me as No.9. That is how my mother noticed my love for football, started supporting my new found hobby by buying for me a t-shirt and having ‘9’ written on its back and front. I was excited. That was in April 1988. I was just nine. Of course our school did not have any sports uniform. My t-shirt stood out and became my uniform every Friday, our class football day. I was unofficially Mr. No. 9.

Once a year, schools had a sports day at the district level where top schools in the district partook in different sports. Primary five to seven pupils dominated the short list for obvious reasons. One day in June 1988, we got a new football coach to prepare our school for the inter-schools competitions at sub-county level elimination round.

Time check 9:30am. It was a Friday. The coach entered our P. 6 class and asked “if you are a boy, have skills and love playing football, stand up.” I was the first up, donning my number 9. Many other kids stood up. He said “follow me to the assembly.” We found the assembly full. All P.5, P.6 and P.7 football lovers had been summoned. We were over 40 and he needed only 22.

To reduce the numbers he said: “I want all of you to run as fast as you can to the football pitch and take your preferred positions.”

I ran fast, but was not fast enough.

I arrived in the field when five other pupils were already standing in my number “9” position. I crossed over to the other side of the field. I was too late there as well. Three players were already in the no.9 position. That position needs skilled players as well as swift and fast runners. I had failed on both.

All other places had only one or two players, a part from the no.1, or goal keeper position. No student liked the goal keeper position.  They get hit by the balls. They have no chance to score. So goal keepers rarely get celebrated UNLESS they are too outstanding. Society celebrates goal scorers NOT those who stop them.

At first I tried to join the no.9 group. But I saw big, fast and tall guys. I guessed, quite rightly that they were good. I decided to start walking out of the field, head bowing down in defeat. I knew in my heart, I could not beat these big boys in that position.

I am not a loser. I hate losing. Anyway I decided to leave the ‘men’ in the no.9.

As I was  walking out of the pitch, the coach shouted: hey! I turned back. “What is your name”, he asked: I replied “I am called Mustapha Mugisa.” He said; “so you give up easily?”  I stopped. Turned around.And started walking towards him near the center of the field. “Why not go in the goal?” I said,“I have never played in that position.”

He said, if that is so, that is the reason you should try it today.

I started walking slowly to the goal to take up that position, my head bowing down. If you have watched the Shaolin soccer, you know the lady keeper substitute, walking past the players to take the goal keeper position, with shoulders and face down. That is how I was moving to that goal.

If this story ended here, you would say that I am a loser.

But it did not end here.

Taking up the vacant position of goal keeper is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I learnt a critical lesson that I now call the football strategy. You can use it in your business and life. “Go for vacant positions.” It is easier to succeed there.

I took up the keeper position. We were very few players. For the no.9 position, the coach only took two top players. Over seven good players were dropped. I am sure; I too would have been dropped and missed the exposures and opportunities that came with being on the top 11 list.

I was kept on the team, since there were few players who could play goal keeping. I practiced hard and became a preferred keeper.  In fact, when the worst came, I was the assistant keeper. And it happens that a keeper position must have an assistant not some of the time. But all the time. I travelled with the team early in my career throughout the district. I met wonderful people and team. I learnt a lot about winning and losing, than I could have done in the classroom. Life is so interesting. It is the experiences one goes through that make it special.

When it comes to your life, are you looking only for occupied positions?

If you need a motivational speaker or career and life mentor for executives or young ones, contact Mustapha. Face 2017 with confidence. Have Mustapha as your mentor and see success that you never even imagined it existed.

Most of the time, the best way to win a war is not to start one. In the Harvard Business Publishing better seller book, The Blue Ocean Strategy, Kim explains that great leaders are always in pursuit of “new market space to create new demand…” and that “overcrowded industries competing head-on results in nothing but a bloody red ocean of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool.” To create a blue ocean, out-perform the competition by doing what the competition is not even thinking about… go for unoccupied markets.”

Looking back to that Friday in 1988. My coach’s advice to take up the vacant no.1 goal keeper position was the best advice. Who is your advisor? Who helps you see the bigger picture?

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2017. All rights reserved.

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