There used to be a sports news on cable TV called Sports Central whose casters turned quips into headlines. About 11 years ago, they told me a story that was more than just football. Before that, I didn't care much about the sport. Just like most Filipinos, 90 minutes is too long to see only 2 points scored. But on October 2006, a match between Chelsea FC and Reading saw two injured goal keepers and a captain who did more than was expected. That has been one of my inspirations in leadership and teamwork, and that match turned me into a fan.
Fifteen seconds into the game, goal keeper, Petre Cech, acquired a head injury as he was hit by an opponent's knee while in motion. If you've met a footballer, you know that their legs could, quite literally, kill. Cech had to be stretchered off and was brought to a hospital. He suffered a skull fracture that was always described as being somewhere between life and death. While he was fighting for his life, the match went on with 2nd goal keeper Cudicini. Sometime during the match, John Obi Mikel was red carded for making a point to one of the Reading players. That means he had to walk straight to the locker room. During extra time, Cudicini, in his desire to catch a free kick, suffered a mid-air collision and fell to the ground unconscious. It was off to the hospital for him too. Third choice goal keeper, Hilario, was either not ready or had to be rested for a champions league game in 4 days.
The entire thing looked scary and hopeless and the commentators had a little laugh in them for Chelsea's predicament. But the cameras focused on captain and defender, John Terry. He changed into the 3rd goal keeper's uniform while listening to coaches' instructions. He struggled to fit the gloves, walked with uncertainty to the penalty line, rubbed his gloves against his shirt, asked the referee if the ball to be played is the one in front of him, kicked the ball and the match was back on. Chelsea won 1-0 due to an own goal from Frank Lampard's free kick.
Knowing about that match turned me into a football enthusiast and a Chelsea FC fan. The club has changed so much since. I had the privilege of seeing the recent team in the flesh but this story, despite it being just in the news in 2006, told me so much more.
You may not be at your best always, and that's okay. The team will step-up, without question, because they know that despite this rather unfortunate day, you always do your best.
You step up, down or aside. You do it because it is needed. While responsibilities are delegated and we are paid for our roles, the goal is shared .
The higher your role is the more it is expected of you to make the right decisions for and with the team and make adjustments in yourself to achieve the shared goal.
But even if the goal is your ultimate measure, the character, well-being and shared experiences formed in your team will always outweigh the goal, ALWAYS.
A team that is trusted will trust a conscientious and honest leader who stands by her/his principles.
It is important to be reminded of stories that inspire us. They help us stay vigilant against challenges and keep us in check when things do not go our way.
Cech continued to be one of the top goal keepers of the world and he moved on from Chelsea in 2015, after 11 seasons with the club. Cudicini signed with Tottenham in 2009 but came back in 2016 as part of the coaching staff under the new manager, Antonio Conte. Captain John Terry retired from the club last year and joined one of the clubs in the lower league for the love of the game. The team of that match was one of Chelsea's best and despite coming from different countries and cultures, they created football history and confirmed that they are some of the sport's legends - Manager Jose Mourinho, John Terry, Cech, Frank Lampard, Drogba, Ashley Cole, Joe Cole, Essien, Mikel, Carvalho, Schevchenko, Ballack, Robben, Ferreira, Kalou, Shaun Wright-Philipps, Cudicini, Hilario and more.
They have all either retired or moved on to other clubs or countries. But they will, forever be, the Chelsea that turned me.
Some will stay and some will leave but the change you've all created will never be erased.
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