Go for Goal: The Attitudes of a Winning Team

by Patrick Ogungbola

Welcome July

This is July 2018, the month that ushers us to the second half of the year. Welcome on-board. In the game of football like in many other sporting competitions, the result of the second half is far more important than that of the first half, and as a matter of fact, the real winner of the game can only be declared at the end of the second half. If you have fought and conquered between January to June, and you feel oh you’ve tried enough and you deserve some rest, whereas your opponents (competitors) decide not to take a rest but they keep fighting on and improving on their skills, the result will be obvious at the end of the year. The winning team of the first half can become the loser at the end of the game (in the second half) if they relax. Indeed, it is only those that endure to the end that will be saved.

The above illustration is even more apt as the FIFA World Cup is currently ongoing; it seems to be the most trending event in the world at the moment, and hence our article for this month will largely centre on this. It needs to be mentioned that this writer is not a sport fanatic, nor is he a fan of any football club, apart from our own Enyimba F.C.; however, he’s always optimistic whenever the Nigerian national team is playing against the team of other nations as a show of his solidarity and patriotism.

Fifa World Cup 2018

Well, few days ago, specifically on Tuesday, June 26, the hope of many Nigerians and their supporters were shattered when the Argentines beat us 2 to 1. Disappointments and anger were written in the face of many. There were a lot of blame games and aspersions among Nigerians towards the referee and the officiating team, the Nigerian football team, the coach, the NFA (Nigeria Football Association) and some even blamed our loss on FIFA. Some also attributed the loss to the killing of the hundreds of people at Jos, Plateau State (May God grant the soul of the departed peaceful rest). However, I have found out that throwing blames and casting aspersions have never solved a problem; neither will they change the result or outcome of an event that has already occurred. As funny as it may seem, in almost every game (even draughts), the spectators or onlookers always seem to know how a player should have played, but put him or her in the game, and you’ll see a worse player. Whenever any bad event happens, we blame everyone else, but ourselves, and this is the way we’ve all been brought up as Africans. This is so sad that some countries still blame their underdevelopment to the colonial masters. Is it not obvious that when we point an accusing finger at someone, other fingers are being pointed back at us. Rather than blaming anyone else, is it not better to ponder on where we have gone wrong to avoid a repeat next time?


No doubt, in every game, there will always be the winners and the losers, but the question is, ‘Why can’t we be the winner?’ Success, Victories and being called a Champion does not come by luck or wishful thinking, but through careful planning and execution, coupled with serious hard and smart work, and much discipline. These can also be called the principles or attitudes of a winner. Without sentiment and emotions involved, I am of the opinion that the Nigerian team did not play the way a champion should; the Argentines were better players – they were very hungry for goals and this reflected in the way they played against us.

Someone summed up my thought about the outcome of the match as follows:

Nigerians are surely jokers. That they could come up with negative reactions to the outcome of the Nigeria Vs. Argentina’s match, which we deservedly lost to better side (Argentina) miffed me so much. That they even went as far as saying that ‘they are heartbroken over Nigeria’s lost to Argentina’ is my idea of tempting God just too far”

Without sentiment again, it is always my wish and desire ‘for the better team to win’ in every match. How does it even sound for the worse team to win? What will be the justification and compensation for the better team who had prepared adequately, worked assiduously and sacrificed greatly and for them to still lose? How does it feel for the lazy staff in your company to get promoted while you the hardworking type remains in the same position? Surely, God cannot be mocked, for whatsoever a man sows, the same shall he reap (Galatians 6:7). For how long will African teams be looking out for penalties to win a match? Looking for fouls and penalties can be likened to counting on lucks and chance to succeed. It is high time we got our acts together and quit primitive soccer. In other climes, football is fast becoming more scientific as a lot of calculations and brain work goes into it. If not, how can the Argentines achieve accurate passes among themselves, and Nigerians can’t; for several times, they were able to get the ball so easily from the Nigerian players.

Nigeria Argentina World Cup Match

It is very amazing that this year’s world cup have taken a new dimension in the history of football. The scenario whereby those nations that could be classified as ‘football handicapped or deficient nations’ such as South Korea, Japan, Croatia, Colombia, etc beating the ‘football most powerful countries’ such as Germany, Portugal and Argentina is overwhelming. What this tells us is that no one and no team should ever be underestimated or underrated; people can develop and improve on themselves to be better than before. Indeed, no condition is permanent!

Why do some team outperform and rank higher than the others? How are they always able to achieve these feats? No doubt, it is not by luck or magic, neither is it a miracle; it is simply in their attitude. Everything in life runs on principles; a lizard in Nigeria can never become a crocodile in America. There are processes to follow and a huge price to pay for success. Winners have winning attitudes, and losers also have their own attitudes. The winning attitudes or principles are universal and will work anywhere and in any area of endeavour, be it sports, business, academics, or what have you. To this end, below are ten (10) winning attitudes that separate the winners from the losers:

Winning attitudes for success

    Positive mentality: Every form of achievements start with having positive mental attitude. Championship starts from the mind; winners first win in their mind before it becomes a reality. Failures see failure as final while successful people see it as an opportunity to try again. It is on record that since the history of World Cup, Argentina has always beaten Nigeria. The two team are conscious of this fact as it is a common knowledge. The Argentines have the positive mentality that any other team may beat us but definitely not the Nigerians, and the Nigerians always see Argentina as their stumbling block in any game, and will always pray that Argentina should not be in their group. A winning team (champion) will be unafraid of any opponent they are to play with. They believe they can conquer all obstacles (possibility mentality). Until we (including the Nigerian team) build ourselves to this standard, we will always be relegated to the background.

Positive mentality

–       Training, Training and More Training: In sports and many other competitions, the importance of training and continuous training cannot be overemphasised; it’s absolutely non-negotiable. Training, practice and rehearsal can be used interchangeably. The champions in every sporting competition equate training with life. We read in a recent article that one of the best footballers in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo often forgets to eat while training and most times, he eats and trains at the same time. You need to study your opponents, study their styles of play and train harder to be better than them. You can never outgrow training as there will always be room for improvement and new things to learn, as nothing is yet in its finest state.

The purpose of training

–       Courage, Confidence and Charisma (3Cs): Courage is the willingness to act in spite of fear (Michael Hyatt). Confidence is something you create within yourself by believing in who you are; and Charisma is the ability to attract and influence the people around you; success and failure are contagious. These 3Cs are related and work in synergy, and are greatly influenced by the first attitude we examined – positive mentality. Also, using the Nigeria-Argentina match, the Argentines displayed an exceptional amount of courage, confidence and charisma throughout the duration of the match; they virtually dominated the match. It seems to me that most Africans believe they are inferior to the whites and this also reflects in the way they play against the latter. I call this the ‘Grasshopper mentality’ (Numbers 13:33).

Be humble in your confidence

–       Diligence and Persistence: Diligence is the constant and earnest effort to achieve what one sets out to do, and Persistence is the ability to stick with something even in the face of difficulty. Being diligent and persistent are important attributes of winners. They don’t take no for an answer and are never tiring until they win. Still on the Nigerian-Argentina match, at the 85th minutes towards the end of the second half, it was very obvious the Nigerian players were tired and exhausted, and this made the more agile and never-tiring Argentines to capitalise on the weakness of the Nigerian team to score the winning goal. Never, ever give up, never (https://bit.ly/2tUykkZ).

Diligence and Persistence

–       Accept Responsibility: Accepting responsibility means taking ownership of your own behaviour/ action and the consequences of that behaviour. Someone once said that the acceptance of responsibility is the beginning of maturity. Truly successful people don’t complain but they accept responsibility for the result of their action and inaction. Even in their moments of defeat, they own up; whereas, losers will always look for others to blame for their failures. Until we accept responsibility for our actions or failures, it will be very difficult for us to develop self-respect or even have the respect of others. If we fail or make mistake, let us accept responsibility and avoid the blame game, as blames can never reverse the bad situation.


–       Discipline: Discipline is another essential attribute of a winner. To be disciplined is to have self-control or self-mastery. Every truly successful person or nation is disciplined. Discipline is the master key to success. It is discipline that turns ability into achievement. A disciplined person knows how to plan his or her life adequately and prioritize on the most important things. In sport, players must be disciplined to practice when need be, must watch what they eat and what not to eat, must keep to the rules of the game, and other musts and must nots.


–       Staying Hungry: Champions are never contented about average success, or the previous success, they always strive for more. They are often unsatisfied until they succeed. Their deep hunger for success is their driver to success. Your hunger for success must be fuelled by your passion. Successful people and team approach their work as if their life and destiny depends on it. Also, in line with our classic example (Nigeria – Argentina match), it was very glaring that the Argentines were hungrier for goals than the Nigerians. The later only needed a draw to qualify for the next round, while the later must win to qualify. As expected, the hungrier team won.

Stay hungry

–       Consistency and Predictability: The success recorded by champions is to a large extent consistent and predictable. It is expected that champions will experience moments of loss, but on the aggregate, they usually encounter more wins than losses. Even when they experience momentary loss, they don’t stay too long before they come back up to their top position. For instance, in the history of World Cup, Brazil has won five times, and they are the only team to have played in every tournament. The other World Cup winners are Germany and Italy, with four titles each; Argentina and inaugural winner Uruguay, with two titles each. So also Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are regarded as the world’s greatest footballers – they have been consistent and persistent in maintaining their position.

Consistency and predictability

–       Resilience: Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties/ misfortunes (Webster dictionary). American Psychological Association (APA) defines Resilience as ‘adaption (change) in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or stress. Successful people know that life isn’t perfect.  They recognize that success comes from multiple failures.  And instead of giving up because of their fears/ failure, they have strong courage to face them. They do not let their first, second, third and hundred tenth failures to stop them from believing in their dreams.  They always dust off and try again. For instance, before their victory with Nigerians, Argentina had sustained a loss against the Croatians who beat them 3 – 0. This didn’t allow this to affect their outing with the Nigerian team whom they beat 2 – 1.


–       Giving Back: Every truly successful person is a giver; they give to people, their communities, their country and the world that has contributed to their success. The measure of your success is partly determined by the quantity and quality of your giving. Bill and Melinda Gates have a foundation which gives to various causes. Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerberg are contributors of funds to the foundation. Cristiano Ronaldo was said to have assisted one Alberto Fantrau who was greatly instrumental to Ronaldo’s career success. It was also reported that Ahmed Musa who scored 2 goals against the Icelanders gave free bags of rice and other goods to the people in Kano during the Ramandan season. The happiest people in the world are the givers, not the getters. True winners are givers, they don’t hoard just for themselves.

Giving is living

It is noteworthy that the attitudes of winners are not limited to the above, we have only attempted to discuss a few, and as earlier said, these attributes are universal, they hold true for any endeavour.

In conclusion, in the Foreword of the book, ‘Attitude is Everything by Keith Harrell’, Jim Rohn said, “Your attitude determines so much about how you live your life and how far you will go in life. If you keep your attitude up – if you make it ‘super-fantastic’, then you will see so much about your life open right up and flourish”.

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