hello folks thanks for joining me on my contemplations of a football lover this beautiful wednesday morning . Today is the fourth week of the series and I hope you enjoy today’s post as you enjoyed the other three.
WE MUST SET FORTH AT DAWN
The title of today’s post is inspired by a memoir of the same name written by Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka. I am sure you are all wondering what a Soyinka memoir has to do with football, but stick in here with me and you will come to understand why I have given it that title.
As a lover of Nigerian football especially the Super Eagles, I often get into discussions with other Nigerian football enthusiasts about Nigerian football. And as anybody who has ever gotten into discussions about Nigerian football knows, the discussion inevitably gets to the issue of Nigerian players not performing at big clubs because they were grossly overage to start with and thus they can’t play top level football for long before age and time catches up with them. This is a known fact that is not up for argument.
I often read biographies of footballers when I can, especially those of top level football stars and one thing I found common to every top level football player, whether they have a biography out, or not is that they all started playing organized football from when they were very young, from at least like seven or eight . Of course they start playing football when they are much younger. For instance Spanish striker David Villa says he learnt to kick a ball before he learnt to run, which would imply that he was already kicking a ball at around age three. However for the purpose of this piece, let us limit it to an organized youth system where they are taught the proper techniques and are exposed to organized football games .
When I read the players’ biographies or see pictures of little kids playing football, I remember something Malcolm Gladwell said in “The Outliers” about an average individual needing ten thousand hours to be perfect at a given task. Now ten thousand hours converted into years is about a year and a half, which means if you want 10, 000 hours spent playing football, you have to spend 24 hours a day playing football for a year and a half. If you play for three hours a day however, it will take you five years and six or thereabouts months. Thus a kid that starts playing football at age 9 or 10 will have his 10,000 hours by the time he is 14. In a less developed football culture, Nigeria for example, primary schools don’t have a organized football structure, thus the kid that wants to play some kind of organized football has to wait till like late Junior to Senior secondary school when he is already about 14 or 15, which leaves him five years behind schedule. Thus he can’t measure up to his own mates from developed nations in terms of development, and has to play with a younger generation. hence the reason why the issue of overage players is not easy to stamp out.
The point of this post is not to criticize football authorities, it is just to point out that like those top footballers, the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and co, you have to start work on whatever project/dream you want to do early, and work hard on it so that you can be ready for the big time. Sometimes I meet people and ask them what they do, they say they are an aspiring writer or an aspiring broadcaster or aspiring something or the other. It amuses because in these days of world connectivity, you don’t need to be aspiring anymore. It is easy for you to be whatever you want to be, even if you are not on the big stage yet ( unless what you want to be makes a professional qualification compulsory like a doctor or a lawyer in which you can still start planning for the career). Hate or like Nigerian musicians, There is something about life a lot of them are honest about, the fact that they had to work hard to get to where they are (even though they are still dicks for their bragging about their status). It is also something millionaire entrepreneurs are often dishonest about. They never talk about the time they had no clue as to if their business will work and it looked like they had no hope of making it big, instead they play up their smartness, confidence and work intelligence to make them look superhuman.
Farmers especially subsistence farmers understand the lesson of “Setting forth at dawn” perfectly. They know that they only have a narrow window to do the most difficult part of farm work before it is noon and the sun makes it impossible to do some kinds of work. Thus early in the morning sometimes before day has broken, they are already on their way to their farms. Lionel Messi might play football like football is the easiest thing in the world to do, but the Lionel Messi that is making football look ridiculously easy today, came from years of training that started from the time he literally didn’t know his left leg from his right. Life is also like that, you will likely not become what you want to become if you don’t start it as soon as you should. As Arsene Wenger once said “human legs were not naturally created for playing football, you have to train them to do it and you have to start early”. In life to you have to start to prepare early to plant the seeds so that you can have a tree at the required time. As the anecdote says ” the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The next best time is now.” Because if we want to get to our destination in due time, “We must set forth at dawn.”