Business Lessons Learned From Football

Football (or “soccer” as less civilized people call it) is by far the world’s most popular sport. Although America’s MLS season has ended, across the globe the latest football season is about halfway over. Every week, Europe’s top teams play to see who will be top dog in April. Given the popularity of the game globally, it’s not surprising that it’s easy to use as a metaphor for teamwork and leadership development.

Here are four business lessons a team can learn from the beautiful game:

  1. This sport is a global language

No matter where you come from in the world, no matter what language you speak, everyone understands the game and has an appreciation of what it means to them. Football in imprinted in the DNA of the globe. Whether you play football in Brazil, England, or India, everyone knows that it takes teamwork, communication, work ethic, and perseverance to win. That’s true in business as well. Companies must connect diverse, global teams to succeed.

  1. Don’t let money be your only motivation

Football stars across the globe are some of the most highly paid people in the world. Cristiano Ronaldo is currently the highest paid player in the world, earning about $360,000 a WEEK. But despite the ludicrous amount of money, Ronaldo continues to perform at the highest level, scoring tons of goals and winning trophies and awards on a regular basis. The same cannot be said for all players. Many players have fallen into the trap of thinking they have “made it” once they are given their first big contract. But in order to build a successful career in the game, your passion for winning must go beyond just money.

  1. Understand your position, and trust your teammates to know theirs

Although players must adapt in the game to fill multiple roles, each player ultimately has one position on the field. If you are the goalkeeper or a defender, your mission is to keep the opposition from scoring. Yet despite that, once you have won the ball, you’ll also be expected to help build the attack by supplying passes to the forward players. In order for a team to win, in both football and in business, it’s essential for each individual to know their role and dedicate themselves to the mission assigned them, while still understanding the need to contribute to the overall team effort.

  1. Anyone can win

Last season, Leicester City won the Premier league. They did this after narrowly escaping relegation the previous season, and against 5000-1 odds from the bookies. They won the title despite their squad costing 5 times less than the leading teams, and having the third lowest wage bill in the entire league. It was always going to be an uphill battle when you consider the financial resources of bigger, more established competitors. Throughout the season, the Leicester City players were told that their winning run would not continue, that eventually the bigger teams overtake them. Reading and listening to interviews with the players and coaching staff, one thing becomes clear: If you truly believe you can succeed, and keep that faith through any trial, then you can overcome any other obstacle.

  1. BONUS LESSON: Don’t fall over unless you’re actually hurt…you just look stupid


Meet our Author!

Patrick Murphy

By Patrick Murphy | Team Lead – Global Professional Recruiting POC

I have been with Sutherland since September 2013. Prior to that I worked in Agency Recruiting. I was born in England, and moved to the US in 1998. I attended SUNY Brockport and graduated with a bachelors in Business. Two qualities I prefer in leaders (and that I try to emulate myself) are candor and a clear sense of direction.

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