Football’s Fight Against Ebola


The current outbreak of the precarious Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is the deadliest in its history since it first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks, one in Nzara, Sudan, and the other in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo (which occurred in a village near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name). The haemorrhagic fever has left about 2,800 deaths in its wake since its outbreak in Guinea, and then spread across land boarders to Sierra Leone and Liberia. It later found its way into Nigeria through the infamous Liberian American, Patrick Sawyer, who threw maelstrom into the most populous black nation and sparked a global alertness for the deadly Ebola virus. In Nigeria, the virus left about 7 people dead and a host of others were quarantined and monitored for some weeks before they were declared free or cured of the virus. Thankfully, EVD is being contained in Nigeria and the World Health Organization (WHO) has commended the Nigerian government for its efforts in that regard.

Sadly, not the same can be said for other African countries like Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia where the menace of the virus is more felt due to poor health systems. It has been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a report on Tuesday that the number of Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone could rise to between 550,000 and 1.4 million by January if there are no “additional interventions or changes in community behavior.” The estimate was gotten from a new forecasting tool developed by the CDC. The range of estimated cases from 550,000 to 1.4 million is wide because experts suspect the current count is grossly under-reported.

Since the epidemic of the EVD, there has been an outcry all over the world to arrest the situation and as you would expect, the UN has been spearheading that. The official death toll from Ebola in West Africa has climbed to more than 2,800 in six months, with 5,800 cases confirmed, according to the World Health Organization. The CDC however stressed that if 70% of people with Ebola are properly cared for in medical facilities, the epidemic could decrease and eventually end. More help is needed and organizations who care about the well-being of the human race are lending their weight, including The Fédération Internationale de Football Association.

FIFA, the world’s football governing body considers it necessary to work hand in hand with the UN in the fight against Ebola in Africa. They are responding to the requirements needed for curbing the dreaded virus as stated by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), which includes: treatment centers, isolation units, mobile laboratories, protective clothing and qualified personnel.

Monrovia’s Antoinette Tubman stadium which was donated by FIFA to the Liberia Football Association will be set up as a large-scale unit for Ebola treatment with two medical care centers within the premises. The World Health Organization (WHO) chose the football pitch because of its safety and effectiveness.

Special Adviser to the Secretary General of the United Nations on Sport for Peace and Development, Wilfred Lemke said “The Ebola outbreak also has a tremendous impact on the sport community, ranging from health threats to the athletes themselves and restrictions of travel affecting competitions and the development of sport. National authorities, the UN and the world of sport need to work closely together in order to halt the spread of the disease. The commitment of sport organizations to support our efforts is very much welcomed and crucial. It is my hope that many will join in this fight. In particular I was very pleased to note FIFA’s pledge to support health-related measures by agreeing to cover potential damages to the football pitch of the Antoinette Tubman stadium in Monrovia, Liberia that has been earmarked for the use for Ebola treatment centers.”

Making the pitch available is not the only thing FIFA has agreed to do. They’ve also said that at their next Finance Committee meeting holding tomorrow September 25, they will propose to use resources from their solidarity fund to support member associations of affected countries (Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea) in the offensive against Ebola. More financial support will also be expended on solidarity with a local UN initiative.

Writing in his weekly column on THE FIFA WEEKLY, FIFA president Sepp Blatter had these parting words: “There are moments when results and tables fade into insignificance; moments when football is required to shoulder its social and community responsibilities and demonstrate its humanitarian side.” I share his sentiments too and I urge us all to look beyond our busy schedules and cleavages and lend a helping hand to someone out there who is in dire need. It may not be an Ebola patient of course, but there is something we all can do to start making the world a better place.

 O.P. Philips is a freelance writer/entrepreneur. He is the author of The “OBAMA” in You! His new book, “What Football Teaches About Life” will be released soon.

Diego Costa and the Power of Talent

Diego Costa

After the international break, the leagues in Europe resumed last weekend and as a Manchester United fan, I was looking forward to the new outlook of the Red Devils. The thoughts of having world class stars in the league of Radamel Falcao, Ángel Di María, Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Robin V.Persie all in one lineup many months ago would have been a reverie I wouldn’t want to get out of but that’s what every United fan will be looking forward to now, week in, week out— talking about the Gaal-acticos!

Ángel Di María’s virtuoso performance which had him steal the headlines against Queens Park Rangers made my day and to really score the point that Madrid’s loss is United’s gain, Los Blancos slipped again this weekend, losing to champions Atletico Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Di María was not the only lad who deserved praise; all the debutants were fantastic: Daley Blind, who looked like the answer to the balance the Red Devils have been lacking in the middle of the park, and Marcos Rojo who brought some mojo to the hitherto unimpressive defence line with his ball retention and calmness. Radamel Falcao couldn’t turn in the half chance he got when he came in for 23 minutes in the second half, but he still imputed some sharpness and creativity that had been lacking in the final third.

Earlier on Saturday, Arsenal and champions, Manchester City, put up a good show for premier league football with a 2-2 scoreline in a pulsating game. Danny Welbeck was only able to hit the wood work on his debut after a delicate chip to evade the waiting arms of his England teammate, Joe Hart. Sergio Aguero, Jack Wilshere, Alexis Sánchez and Martín Demichelis were all on the score sheet. Sánchez’s goal for me stood out in that game.

But then the team that has kept tongues wagging so far are the little horse turned formidable stallion—the Blues. Chelsea have maintained their 100% record start to the season, scoring 15 goals with pizazz. Of course, remarkable among the performers of Jose Mourinho’s men is the prolific import from Atletico Madrid, Diego da Silva Costa.

Ever since his £32m move, he has fitted perfectly into the attacking deficit left by the resigned and injury sidelined legend, Didier Drogba. If the early signs he showed in the preseason was not convincing for some skeptics, his notching up of 7 league goals in just four games will solidify the argument that he’s probably the best bargain of the summer. Even his boss, the Special One considers it abnormal for him to be finding the net at that rate. However, Diego Costa’s ruthless finish is not the only thing that has made Chelsea tick so far. The team is fortified with quality in every department. Again, there is another guy who has been on top of his trade and that is Cesc Fàbregas. The Spaniard who admitted that it was inconceivable for him to play for Chelsea 5 years ago, have become the bulwark in the heart of the midfield, delivering impeccable passes to strikers like Diego Costa with the precaution of a courier service provider. Fabrepass like fans like to call him, has 6 assists so far and he’s poised to adding the English Premier League medal into his collection of medals.

Now you may want to call my bluff and say that the league is only 4 games gone out of 38—it’s true and anything can still happen in the intriguing English Premier league where clubs can be given rude awakening by lesser sides any day—there will be rooms for surprises and no one can really say how it will pan out, even with the clues these early days have given us. But  the one thing that stood out for me over the weekend, whether it was Diego Costa’s hat-trick, Alexis Sánchez’s wonder goal, or Di María’s verve down the flank, is that, top talents matter, let’s not kid ourselves.

Top talents will more often than not get the job done. The way Diego Costa and Cesc Fàbregas fit into the Chelsea’s squad, even though the latter has had English league experience, could only be possible because they have a good know-how (are talented and hardworking) more than the average players. Same thing could be said for Angel Di María ,Daley Blind, Alexis Sanchez, amongst other quality recruits.

This can also be taken to a broader sense; just like football clubs go for top talents to continue to remain relevant— win trophies and compete at the highest levels, top companies who want to remain industry leaders and enlarge their territories take the issue of talents seriously more than their counterparts. In Talent Masters, a book written by Bill Conaty, former senior Vice-President of General Electric and Ram Charan, co-author of the bestseller, Execution, they talked about the rigorous steps big multinationals like General Electric, Procter and Gamble, Unilever, amongst others, take to ensure they have the best talents and even keep and develop them. While these companies have ways of spotting leadership qualities in their staffers and nurturing them until they become ripe to assume leadership roles in the company, they are also quick to spotting promising talents in their industry and wooing them to come into their companies, after which they will induct them with their own culture (company’s vision and way of doing things). They know that without replenishing these talents, they will relinquish their advantage to the competition, and so they work very hard at ensuring they keep and nurture the best in their organizations while bringing in new ones where necessary, just like what football clubs do.

Talents don’t come cheap. They are usually paid for—ask Manchester United! It would cost you or your organization something to get the right talents, for example. Now the cost for you, could be the amount you would pay to get the talent—highly skilled employee, a virtual assistant, a fine programmer in Mumbai, or anybody that has relevant skills that can improve your cause. Another cost could also be the consequences of not getting the right talents—trophy-less seasons, relegation, poor results, incompetency, shoddy work, loss of clientele and every wrong thing you could think of.

Whether it’s your brick and mortar shop, or you run an organization, whatever you do, getting the right people—competent and highly skilled, will enhance your prospects and help you achieve your goals.

And just like football clubs, you will have to pay the price, one way or the other.

O.P. Philips is a freelance writer/entrepreneur. He is the author of The “OBAMA” in You! His new book, “What Football Teaches About Life” will be released soon.

What Football Transfers Teaches About Change



Yesterday was Deadline Day for the European football transfer market and it was interesting to follow up all the melodrama that ensued all day which eventually climaxed by 11.00pm. There were many interesting transfers, and for the umpteenth time, Manchester United made the headlines more than the rest. Firstly, like the counter attack football they are once famed for, the Reds caught rivals and the rest of the world off guard when they got Radamel Falcao board a flight to Manchester for a one year loan deal, against all odds. United were never in the picture in the race to land the prolific goal machine after he had been linked all summer long to Juventus, Real Madrid, and lately Arsenal and Manchester City. Daley Blind, a dynamic player who came to limelight at the summer world cup with Netherlands was also unveiled. Not bad for a club whose priority would be to make it to the top four this season.

However, it was not all additions; there were some key members of the squad who joined in the massive exodus at the theater of dreams; Javier “Chicharito” Hernández joined the European Champions, Real Madrid, on a yearlong loan with the first option of buying the player on a permanent deal. It was quite sad to see “little pea” go even though he had been nothing but a fringe player all along and you would always sense that he needed to move on. However no doubting the contributions of the Mexican International as he had notched up a tidy 59 goals in 154 appearances and most of those appearances were as an impact substitute. However, Danny Welbeck’s going to Arsenal was one that really got into me. Not that Danny is any spectacular though (29 goals in 142 first team appearances), but you never really know the value of what you have until you lose them. I was thinking he would have gotten a loan deal too, but alas, it was long term. At 23, you just feel maybe he will just get it right someday. And to see the Longsight-bred lad in the colours of a direct rival is a pain in the neck! If there’s anything Manchester United fans will miss in Danny, are his athleticism, commitment and levelheadedness! All the same I wish him all the best and hope he goes on to shine in an Arsenal shirt.

It was not only Manchester United that was doing business, Alvaro Negredo and Micah Richards of Manchester City also joined Valencia and Fiorentina respectively on a one year loan.

Before the Deadline-Day, Fernando Torres of Chelsea also got a breather as he secured a deal to AC Milan; Mario Balotelli is at Anfield now and Sameul Eto’o notched his first goal for the Toffees over the weekend against his former employers. With all these transfer deals, there is one thing that is fundamental at the base: change.

Change is something dynamic and it’s inevitable.  Things don’t remain the same. Football clubs know the importance of reinforcing their squads and fortifying a department that is debilitating. That also brings another interesting angle to the whole thing. These players that are new buys or loaned and are being received with exhilaration in other clubs are oftentimes rejected or underestimated where they are coming from! Sometimes they are not giving enough play time because their former club have alternatives and they deem them surplus. However, in their new destinations, they are usually welcomed with enthusiasm. Isn’t it an irony that a reject becomes a messiah in another place?

That says a lot about life. Sometimes we are constrained by our present circumstances and environment and this causes us to begin to lose confidence in our abilities. It may also lead to a loss of enthusiasm. All that may be required to get running and firing again, just like transfers, is change. Change may mean different things to different folks. Some may need to change jobs— from an 8-5 to your own business, or just a switch in their careers. It may also mean that you change where you live; that’s not a call for you to relocate abroad; a new neighborhood that excites you may do the trick and inspire you to take on new challenges. Most of the players who have changed(been transferred) have gotten new aspirations and they will be looking forward to fulfilling it with their new clubs. I hope we also make that needed change that will make us the best we can be.

O.P. Philips is a freelance writer/entrepreneur. He is the author of The “OBAMA” in You! His new book, “What Football Teaches About Life” will be released soon.