Who would you like to be captained by on a football pitch?

By Eric Odhiambo

I must admit I have a good grasp of basketball right now. It’s like when there’s a much-awaited football derby in the offing and, suddenly, persons who have never shown interest in the beautiful game before are the ones talking about the effectiveness of a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 formation, or worrying about the playing surface and the appointed referee for the upcoming derby. This is the sort of effect the LAST DANCE has had on me.

The restrictions of lockdown life had me watching the ten-part series and has elicited plenty of thoughts about Michael Jordan. What was his leadership style? Was he too harsh on his fellow teammates despite being great on the court? Well, it got me thinking: what embodies good leadership in football circles?

Here are the basic tenets. A leader must have the ability to handle the highs and lows associated with professional sport. He or she must be a good communicator and see past their individual aspirations and agendas. Moreover, they are expected to act as a link between the hierarchical lines, passing on messages from coaching staff to players and vice versa.

But think for a minute: assume you’re a professional footballer in Kenya Premier League, who would you like to be your captain? That question surely elicits all types of answers. Wazito’s Johnstone Omurwa, Gor’s Kenneth Muguna, Ingwe’s Robinson Kamura, KCB’s Mike Kibwage, Mathare’s Chrispine Onyango, Tusker’s Timothy Otieno.

It’s interesting to note that the different answers given above reveal less about the persons mentioned and more about what you think you would best respond to if they captained you. Do you best respond to a quiet example and encouragement or pressure and fear?

The answer to what actually makes a great leader in football is being able to understand what each teammate best responds to and cater to them. In other words, the ability to understand the essence of treating different people differently. While some teammates can be shouted at and challenged to up their standards, some need an arm around the shoulder. A leader who grasps this concept will more likely achieve greater success.

A good leader in football elicits different recollections from his teammates. To some he’s a superhero, to others he’s a tough guy while others see him as the guy they can confide in. Right there is the leadership skill. There’s no singular quality to leadership. No one-size-fits-all approach.

The goal is not to elicit admiration or fear, instead instigate performance and success. To do so, a captain needs to understand the need to be all types of things to his different types of teammates.

Ero is a Wazito FC midfielder. He is the longest-serving player at the club.

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