What is culture?
I chose this subject because I think is not only important to Ghanaians. But important to every country, and ethnic group around the world.
Race identifies what you are. And culture importantly. Identifies who you are. Retracing your history, your practices, and your customs.
It’s evident everywhere in everyday life. In your food, your language, and also in your music.
In music it’s probably most identifiable, from my perspective. In hip hop. All forms, down to its newest form in grime, trap, and drill music.
With music and in football. Which we’ll discuss. The culture is characterized by key elements. The fabric of the art, and the ethos. Where we often retrace the fabric. Or make, and use comparisons of our forefathers.
Why it was done? How the culture began.
To how it was done? And what they did.
Culture defines you! It measures our quality of life. Culture provides important social and economic benefits. Improved learning and health, and opportunities to come together as a community.
Through culture we develop a sense of belonging. Culture is evident in football. And today! We’re going to look at those.
The article was inspired by Steven’s podcast, Diary of a CEO with Rio Ferdinand. Which in parts provided insight into the length and detail behind creating a culture. 20+ years of success at Manchester w/Alex Ferguson
The whole episode itself was great. Rio goes onto discuss in more detail Ferguson, and again that word, culture – at Utd which was fascinating. Details. The very same things infrastructure and processes require.
In Africa, what seems to very prevalent is fan culture – our fanaticism with football. Major tournaments and European football. Including African stars in Europe. It‘s said, Africa is arguably the biggest market for the Premier League. Definitely the most understated. With African fans being loyal and patriotic, in following their compatriots who play overseas.
This trend has been on the rise. With Africa has increasingly becoming a hotbed for talent, where players feature in leagues all over the world. From the MLS to La Liga. Phenomenal stories of success.
With the local game underdeveloped. In comparison to other leagues around the world.
It’s not only attractive to play in Europe or elsewhere. It’s financially rewarding.
The success of talent identification in Africa has yet to translate into success for any African country. With the most successful countries on the world stage at World Cup being – Cameroon at World Cup Italia 90’. Senegal in South Korea in 2002. And Ghana in South Africa in 2010. The Ivory Coast get an honourable mention. For their incredible side in the mid noughties, with Didier Drogba, the Toures and co. But failing to get out of the group in 2006 and 10’.
Today I’m more interested in the culture off the field. That impacts the results on the field. Infrastructures and philosophies that are developed with long term goals.
At club level, we’re going to begin with the most significant in the modern era. And arguably of all time. 20+ years at the helm at Manchester Utd. Sir Alex Ferguson.
I’ve read both of Ferguson’s books. His biography and Leadership. Game changers! Providing insight and compelling reading, into the mind of one of football’s philosophers.
Sir Alex Ferguson, now retired. Is a Coaching Ambassador at UEFA. A Global Ambassador at Manchester United Football, and Fellow to the Executive Education Program at Harvard Business School. Passing on his knowledge and wisdom to the next generation.
At United, Ferguson enweaved family values. And set high standards, and held everyone to them. Ferguson speaks passionately about wanting to instil values in his players. More than giving them technical skills. He wanted to inspire them to strive to do better and to never give up—in other words, to make them winners.
Famously, at Aberdeen. He beat Real Madrid in the 83’ cup winners’ cup final. He moved to Utd in 86’. And famously said, his goal was to ‘knock Liverpool off their perch’. At which he achieved in his time at Manchester United, winning 13 league titles.
In Europe, he always had huge admiration for Real Madrid and their history. Their brand, or model behaviour let’s call it. With aspirations of replicating their success on the continent. And that he did, reaching 4 European cup finals. Champions of Europe in 99’, and 2008.
But all this was built of the fabric of the club. The history of the Busby Babes. Setting high standards and instilling values across the club which have carried, and birthed a generation of United players, staff and fans worldwide.
I read a quote from Van der Sar. And heard this from Rio Ferdinand on the Life of a CEO Podcast by Steven. Paraphrasing. Manchester Utd is a huge club. A global brand. So you could be excused for not knowing everyone’s name. But Ferguson knew the tea ladies by 1st name. They knew each other on a personal level. As do the players and all the staff – Family values! Manchester United isn’t just the 1st team.
The class of 92’, which is etched in Utd’s history. With the likes of Scholes, Beckham, Giggs, and the Neville brothers. Coming through the youth system and into the 1st team provides identity for club. And importantly the fans! Something that is becoming more evident in recent time following the retirement of Sir Alex. With a new generation of Utd stars having come through the doors of Carrington – Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Scott McTominay, Andreas Pereira, Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe, Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood. The very fabric of the club.
United were exciting to watch! But had a work ethic. A versatility. They were hard working. And had, an enviable never die attitude, that was relatable to the working man and woman in Manchester.
Quality without results is pointless. And results without quality is boring.”
“Playing football is very simple. But playing simple football is the hardest thing there is.”
– Johan Cryuff
Back where we left of last week with our podcast. We revisit Dutch football. A culture that has developed many talents. Some of them our diaspora. Most recently with Brian Brobbeyy. But notably with Ghanaian Memphis Depay, and another former Manchester Utd man. Fosu-Mensah
Dutch Football, like Italian football, is just like a sweet science. With Dutch football being a puzzle – where young players learn to value the ethos early on, that ‘space is important in football’. A style, accompanied by flair and excitement, aimed at making the pitch as large as possible. Spreading play to the wings, and seeing every run and movement as a way to increase and exploit the available space.
Ajax in 2019, almost recreated that incredible feat in 95’ when Ajax we’re champions of Europe with that incredible side. The famous Ajax academy, and the Dutch football, have developed some of the world’s greatest talents philosophies in total football.
Players of the likes of – Edwin van der Sar, Frank Rijkaard, Ronald Koeman, Johan Neeskens, Dennis Bergkamp, Clarence Seedorf, Ruud Gullit, Van Basten, and the great man, Johan Cryuff.
We covered Dutch and Spanish football in our preview podcast to our article. But I would to list a few different cultures, in Italian and French. Where they have Clairefontaine and Catenaccio. But cover 2 more, and where it leaves Ghanaian football.
Firstly with English football
1. English football. The home of football. The home of Wembley stadium, and giants of the game. Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester City. The list goes on.
English football is currently undergoing a renaissance. With clubs not only making a mark on European football. But with a host of talent coming through on the international stage. Euro 2020/21, and Qatar 2022 will be test, but exciting times for the English game.
What we see now, all began after a poor showing at Euro 2000, when England failed to get out the group. With condemnation and review to restructure our systems. This took time. But comparisons over the years came with France and Clairfontaine. Following their European Championship and World Cup success. The same followed with Spain. With the success of their club football and European Championship and World Cup success. And then Germany. Who also had a poor European Championship in 2000. But became World champions in 2014 in Brazil.
Fast forward from 2000. English talent is sort after across Europe from major clubs. For the talent that British clubs can keep a hold of because the depth produced, and talent in the 1st team.
Long are the days of direct football. The FA and clubs a like in the UK have a different model. To accompany the athletic and dynamism of the game in the UK.
With the success of models in Europe. With Clairefountaine, we saw St. George’s Park. And with the success of Spain’s Tika Taka. Saw academies up and down the country develop curriculums for the modern game. With players able to dribble like Neymar, and pass like Xavi.
4-4-2. Not necessarily out the window. But in came fluid systems like 433, 343, and 352. To add another dimension. Along with athletic, dynamic movement, and pace of the game.
Clubs and The FA developed the talent. The models for Talent Identification. The programs i.e. the camps, pryamid systems, and competition. The coaches, which have allowed Southgate to be promoted, and oversee a successful period of fresh talent.
Following the previous golden generation of Rio, Gerard, Lampard, Rooney, Becks and co. The U17 World Cup in India produced the class 2021 with Hudson Odoi, Rashford, Trent, Sancho, Phil Foden, and Mason Mount. The list is endless!
2. The US are the number one in the world when it comes to producing athletes. And methods they adopt to enhance performance. With the growth of the game, particularly of the women’s. It’s of no surprise the US are emerging as one of the world’s ones to watch for producing talent. With a host of players playing in the Women’s Soccer League, and with a number of players at big clubs at Europe. It demonstrates they’ve broken the mould. The stigma around US soccer, and their ability to compete in the men’s game.
The USWNT are the number 1 in the world. But long are the days for the USMNT of just Claudio Reyna, Brad Friedel or Clint Dempsey being household names playing for clubs like Fulham FC. Now a core group of the national team represent clubs like FC Barcelona, Juventus, Valencia and Dortmund.
Simplifying it. The US system is 2 tiered. In relation to college and professional. Where after a successful college career, you are drafted into the professional game.
Being at the forefront of sports ‘entertainment’. The infrastructures have never been an issue for The US. I guess funding for sport that is competing with Athletics, American Football, Basketball, and Baseball was always going to be the issue. But that trend has changed, and participation is on the up. As with the investment, and professionalism. The quality of coaches. And in so, producing results.
Having not qualified for Russia in 2018. The USMNT are on course to make a major impact in Qatar 2022.
Having gone through culture/philosophies. Emerging ones. And listing several others. With the events of the European Super League. With the questions that were posed as to sustainability. Where does it leave Ghanaian or African football?
Geographically, and the ESL in its format, has nothing to do with Africa. But if European football is the benchmark. And quality and sustainability have been questioned. Our models, in line with recent success and question marks, need to be looked at. As to restructuring – funding in grassroots, and down the pyramid of football
Retracing our history. Just as we do in culture. It’s been many years since our last AFCON win. And 2 of the last world cups have seen us not qualify, and fail to get out the group. And with players of generation coming from yesteryear.
The success of talent identification in Africa has seen success! With each region testifying as to who produces the best talent.
Yes! The youth team have had success in recent time. Our victory marking 12 years since our last success in competition. But as one of Africa’s biggest nations, Ghana needs identity fast! Trophies are great. But eras, and success are measure in consistency.
And sorry no! The Talent ID hasn’t as of yet, translated into success for many African countries.
Culture is characterized by key elements. The fabric of the art, and the ethos.
Culture defines you! It measures our quality of life. Culture provides important social and economic benefits. Improved learning and health, and opportunities to come together as a community. Through culture we develop a sense of belonging.
There’s intrinsic value in culture
Culture is everything to Ghana. It’s in our language, our food, and in our history.
Culture bears fruit.
Is it in our game?
We need it in our game.
As with our podcast. Like, comment with your views, share and subscribe/follow. We’ll be publishing another towards the end of May 2021. We’ll posting as usual vía social media keeping up with the stories as they unfold in the coming weeks. As always if you have any questions or queries. Email us at email@example.com or tweet or DM us at @teamghanaeu on IG or Twitter.
Written by Andrew Mensah-Twumasi @andrewmensahjr (IG/Twitter)
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