The Danger Of A Single Player: What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Brazil

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When Neymar fell to the ground grasping his back in the 82nd minute of the Brazil versus Colombian world cup quarter-final, the entire nation of Brazil as well as several other millions in other parts of the globe held their collective breath!

This was not a typical fall…it looked more serious. A fortuitous or intentional (only Colombian defender Juan Camilo Zuniga will know) knee to the back.

In the words of Brazilian left back Marcelo, who was the first on the scene “I can’t feel my legs” were the first words uttered by Neymar. Marcelo instantly feared the worse “paralysis” and fervently beckoned for medical help.

But on July 8th, as the Brazilians faced the Germans at Belo Horizonte, it was Marcelo ironically who seemed like the one who could not feel his legs … as the Germans slotted 7 goals past a paralyzed static Brazilian defense. Breaking the hearts of Brazilians and breaking several other records in the process including Most goals scored in a world cup semi-final, worst loss by a host team in world cup history, Fastest to score four goals (Germany scored 4 goals in six minutes, let that digest!) and let’s not forget twitter…Most discussed sports game ever with 35.6 million tweets!

But what was interesting about this shellacking was that this was Brazil we were talking about. 5 time world cup champions…the country of the great Pele, the great Ronaldo, the great Rivaldo, the great Ronaldinho…

This was not a Costa Rica type team or maybe a Cameroonian team playing in an unfamiliar climate. This was Brazil playing at home in front of their raucous fans being outplayed by the same German team that struggled to get past Algeria and Ghana just a few days ago. It was not like there was a biased referee or that the Brazilian team was playing with 10 men or that Germany got some undeserved/controversial penalty decision.

None of that! It was just a straight up inexcusable beating that shocked many across the globe. Except for some … the soccer pundits. The pundits who saw Brazil scrape past Croatia thanks to a shady decision, struggle to break down Mexico and managing to edge out Chile on the lottery of penalty kicks. To them they say a weakened Brazil side, but their observation were drowned out by the screams of many but more salient by the skills of a certain player.

Neymar Jr.

neymargdinstaNeymar who scored, who orchestrated, who inspired but more importantly who covered up for the deficiencies of the Brazilian squad. Until Juan Camilo Zuniga ended his world cup and Brazil’s. And in the space of 1 minute Brazil went from world beaters to local amateur league contestants.

But this has been the story of the 2014 world cup. The story of the single player…the special one.

Without Suarez, Uruguay can’t score and can’t win. But once he is in the line-up Uruguay look deadly…everyone from the midfield to the defense looks solid. Without Messi Argentina are just well Argentina.

That’s the problem with the single player. The problem is that they cover up for the deficiencies of their team, cover up for other players, cover up for poor management and hide deficiencies in the organization. The single player makes the team look great even when in fact the team is shitty.

Soccer pundits knew that Brazil had an average team, but with Neymar scoring all that noise was drowned out. Plus the history and the aura of Brazil ensured it remained quiet. Until Neymar went down, until Suarez dug into Chillieni…until reality hit!

Because everything is great with the single superstar player…until they suddenly leave like Steve Jobs. And then the organization for the first time is forced to face the reality of its inefficiencies.

When Steve Jobs left Apple in 1985 their stocks dropped, their market share eroded and their once solid product offering started confusing their customers. It was just like the Brazil without Neymar. Apple was all over the place and tethering on the brink of bankruptcy when they made a call to Steve Jobs in 1997 and returned him to the helm of Apple affairs….the rest as we know is i-history.

But not everyone is given the opportunity to get a replacement super star back like Apple. Sometimes they never comeback. The key however is to mitigate the effect of their departure by recognizing their presence. By doing so you are able to properly determine where your organization areas of deficiencies lie.

For Brazil, Neymar covered up their poor defense by deviating attention away with his offensive presence…a presence that allowed the defense play sloppy without being exposed by the opposing team which was too pre-occupied with containing Neymar. For Uruguay Luis Suarez covered up the fact that Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan were strikers not in form.

The truth is that a lot of our organizations are set up like the Brazilian and Uruguayan team. An average disjointed system that could collapse any minute but does not because of that superstar who goes above and beyond. The one that has to be called upon even on their vacation (that’s if they are even allowed to take any), the one that makes everyone look good great by picking up the organizational slack and not complaining, the special one. The single player. The one who tricks us into believing a team is great when in fact they are not.

Beware of the single player.

twitterWritten & Drawn By Okechukwu Ofili of
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Words by Okechukwu Ofili of
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31 comments on “The Danger Of A Single Player: What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Brazil

  1. Wow. Just… you know what? *clap clap clap clap clap!*

    *Stands up*

    *clap clap clap clap clap!*

    That’s all I have to say. Loved the commentary.

  2. muyiwasoares on said:

    How apt..what comes to my mind is the Nigerian Military,they were successful in their peace keeping missions in some African countries and we all thought they were the bring them home to fight insurgents and we see how clueless and inefficient they really are!

    • The soldiers are not inefficient. You just have to be fighting insurgents before you’re in any position to talk! You can not fight all terrorism, America couldndo it in their country, even all the countries here to help us haven’t made that much of a difference. So, be patriotic, BELIEVE IN NIGERIA!
      By the way, this is under business and enterprenuership, keep these sorts of opinions to yourself till there’s an article about our security.
      Thank you
      Bunie Arah latest post is Grunge Fashion: It’s not Goth, it’s Grunge!My Profile

  3. Great Article I must say…
    I Think This scenario applies to anything that has to do with a Team or multiple members. From committees to Associations to Companies as you said.
    But in a way… It produces results… Altho Its not always the best way to go. Its dangerous but effective.

  4. The danger of a single player creates stereotypes & illusions. We are so focused on our winning plan, the “joker that we fail to explore other options. In the end, no matter how long it works, it brings failure. Brazil came crashing like humpty dumpty, who could not be put together again.

  5. Muna on said:

    I am completely awed by how you play with words, how you use them to bring to life your deepest thoughts. I learnt so much from this…the danger of a single story…the danger of a single player. Wonderful.

  6. Tunmi on said:

    I called it from their first game. When I played football, I was right-wing defense so with football teams, their defense is what I focus on. And Brazil’s was poor. USA, on the other hand, had a very impressive defense. Brazil struggled against Mexico in their first game in the same manner that South Africa struggled against Mexico at the 2010 World Cup…does someone have something against Mexico.

    It was sad that they were allowed to get this far: referees, I’m looking at you. Chile or Colombia would have made better adversaries.

  7. alegtony on said:

    You bring everything to mind: the single superstar player, ourselves, our organizations, everything.
    Its splendid.

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