Messi and Me: Playing for Gold.
Congratulations to Lionel Messi and the illustrious Argentine team for clinching the FIFA World Cup 2022 trophy, literally snatching it from the jaws of defending champions and tormentors-in-chief in the final, France. In all my years, that grand finale at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar (on their National Day in front of 90,000 warm bodies), was the best ever.
Although the Qatari robe in the feature picture of this blog has raised all sorts of conversations, it’s the gold for me. I love gold. Perhaps because I’m from the Gold Coast (Ghana’s colonial name) or because my father’s father was a goldsmith and something of that runs in my blood. In the executive leadership education company I run, YAW PERBI, our brand colours in tandem with our core mandates are green for growth, blue for success and gold for significance.
To receive a golden ball award and to lift the golden World Cup trophy clad in a gold-laced robe with a gold medal for a neck accessory is no mean feat. It is a personal and professional pinnacle only few mortals shall ever reach, even if translated into the equivalent zeniths in their respective fields like the Grammys for music, the Oscars for movies and the Nobel prizes for various noble works.
As I compose this, my oldest son is lounging on the family room carpet engrossed in a soccer video game on his phone. I won’t be surprised if his seismic shift from basketball madness to soccer obsession has something to do with our final move last year across the Atlantic from Canada to Ghana but boy does he remind me of myself, three decades back—my golden days.
As the first of four siblings in the same primary school, I would proudly take up the front seat beside my chauffeur-dad each weekday morning en route to Ridge Church School (RCS). My favourite was Monday mornings, as I ‘invested’ my pocket money (and sometimes parental financial aid) in sports newspapers. My preferred teams then were Asante Kotoko locally and John Barnes’ Liverpool globally. I would get myself tired and dirty and late to the car pack to be picked up after school–soccermania! I even played for the RCS school team at the Accra Sports Stadium once. In high school, I only managed to play for Aggrey House at Achimota–I had neither the amount of time nor talent to make the school team.
I grew up in the golden days of one who was the greatest footballer then, to me: Diego Maradona. Dribbles. Goals. Antics (like bouncing the ball on his shoulder before kick-off ). Even the (in)famous ‘hand of God’. My dad was delighted like me, for sure, yet still gleefully tell me of his growing up days—albeit with not even a family black-and-white TV let alone today’s array of personal electronic devices. But of course owning a TV or not, everyone knew about the indomitable Pelé. Some of the legendary tales were incredulous, to say the least. And there was no Google to fact check back then! Pele was the greatest, banging in goals like clockwork and lifting three golden World Cup trophies. O what golden days!
Last Sunday, it was such a joy to watch the thrilling World Cup finale, with all my seven children. In their era, they are spoilt for choice in many things. They too will tell their children two or three decades hence, that Messi was the greatest. Have you seen all his medals and metals?! Or well, it just might be killer-Kylian Mbappe, soon enough.
GROWING INTO GOLD
The debate rages on (some wish it was over) about whether Messi is the GOAT—Greatest of All Time. I’m not as vested in football as I was in primary school to be all emotional and fight over this. As I posted in jest on my Facebook status the morning after the final, “#Messi is GOTT; not GOAT. Greatest Of This Time (GOTT) for sure, but certainly not Greatest Of All Time (GOAT). It’s my wall, I write what I like!🤪”
Messi’s grabbed his gold and gone. Now to you and me: to get to success (blue) requires tremendous growth (green), personally and professionally. And growth and pain are siamese twins. While success, when it comes, is largely personal, it takes intentionality of mind and a big heart to translate it into societal significance. Not all who succeed are significant.
While many of us, the world over, in our emotional high applaud Messi and the Argentines, in our more sober moments we each need to reflect, introspectively asking ourselves if we are playing our ‘A’ game. Let’s all question: “Messi and Me: am I playing for gold too?” Especially as 2023 beckons, will we intentionally grow like crazy so we authentically succeed in leaps and bounds and greatly bless the world too, in this time or for all time (who cares?), with our own version of gold? Gold is significance.