Right now I’m proud to be South African. Bafana Bafana might not have lived up to the potential they showed against Mexico in the opening match of the World Cup, but soccer has emerged as the real star in the competition. And there’s nothing wrong with our managerial skills either, as the successful hosting of the biggest sports tournament on the planet has shown. We’re up there with the best – and in so many other endeavours, too.
But even before the World Cup began, I knew the hype was based on a solid foundation of real achievement. This was confirmed by the experiences of a friend. She had apprehensively decided to test the park-and-ride facilities and attend the Bafana Bafana/Thailand warm-up match at the new Mbombela Stadium. She was choked up with emotion when she spoke to me on the phone. She said it had been one of the best days of her life.
The park-and-ride worked perfectly, the stadium was magnificent, and the atmosphere was electric. She’d never experienced anything like the sense of pride and patriotism that had blossomed in that stadium, or the sense of joy and shared destiny, the laughing and singing shosholozas as they journeyed back in the crowded bus.
Somewhat sceptical of her “report” – this was after all Mbombela, Mpumalanga, which has a dismal record of local government inefficiency – I called another friend, a male rugby fanatic who’d also attended the match and who, I thought, could be relied upon to give me a more balanced view.
But he didn’t have time to talk while he was busy searching the web and phoning around trying to track down tickets for all the Bafana Bafana World Cup games. He’d managed to find a seat for the Uruguay encounter and was hot on the trail of one for the match with France. He later told me he’d taken a week’s leave and was going to attend some other matches as well. If my lady friend had been ecstatic, he was in raptures.
So Bafana disappointed us. That’s to miss the point. These two people had already had their lives changed by attending the friendly against Thailand. Their perception of Mbombela, Mpumalanga, South Africa, the game of football, and its followers will never be the same again. They saw what can be achieved!
Behaviour changes attitude
Their attitude, their level of patriotism, and their commitment to this country has taken a leap forward. And what we see here is an example of a truth we often lose sight of – to our detriment. It’s this: Behaviour changes attitude. Despite their doubts and fears, they decided to go to this match. They knew little about the game and were nervous about fitting in, but they went. And action – doing – changed their attitude.
What we also witness here is the enormous transforming power of a shared vision, shared values and shared experience, and the power of sport to galvanise this power. Shortly before the World Cup we also saw it at the two Super 14 matches in Soweto. The change in behaviour by the rugby organisers triggered a massive attitude change among millions of people.his rainbow nation of ours is a complicated place and its success or failure will depend on one thing – the competence of its management.
Our farmers are in the front line. Of all employers we have the closest contact with our people and the best chance of making those personal behaviour changes that become a tidal wave of attitude change.
Sport creates a common vision
When I witness the power of sport to build a sense of common vision and purpose, I could weep at the missed management opportunities in my life to make sport a force for good in my work place.Our labour force, much like yours I imagine, is passionate about football. Like you, my fellow managers and I are rugby fans. We’ve taken only a peripheral interest in the local soccer scene. But South Africa 2010 has opened my eyes to the Beautiful Game.
My behaviour is changing, I’m taking an interest in football and its changing my attitude. Quite suddenly I have a point of common interest and a point of contact with many people that was never there before. Its also somehow changing their attitude toward me. We’ve got something to talk about.
It might be a bit late in life for me to be discovering the power of sport, but what about you? Can you make the behaviour change, watch a couple of soccer matches in which your guys are involved, maybe even get involved in the organisation of soccer, or, best of all, get onto the field and play?
Don’t miss the opportunity!
Peter Hughes ([email protected] or call (013) 745 7303.