I was 7 years old when I first played football. It was the first time I actually kicked and held a real football and it was during a physical exercise lesson. Before that, I just watched football on tv, regularly watching some men in red jerseys kicking in a large field. I didn’t understand the game then.
I tried to ask but most of the adults during that time is not at a state of explaining the rules of the game. They were either too busy celebrating or too angry cursing, never a good moment to seek wisdom from them during games.
Then I learned about the men in red jerseys. They had the word Candy written over it and it arouses my curiosity. What does candy have to do with football? Why not chocolate? or ice-cream? I was 7 years old and the concept of sponsorship hasn’t quite sunk in.
Over the years, I learned more about the men in red jerseys… I learned about Ian Rush, Kenny Dalglish, John Barnes, and of course, the one that caught my eye often is non-other than the goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar. I watched them play against Chelsea in 1990 with the likes of Dennis Wise and Graeme Le Saux. Liverpool won 2:0 with goals by Ian Rush and Steve Nicol.
From Graeme Souness, we had Roy Evans. And then a co-manager Gerard Houllier. Then Benitez, Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish, Brendan Rogers, and now, we have Jurgen Klopp. I have to admit, I was ultimately worried when Roy Hodgson took over and I was really glad he didn’t stay that long.
Since Klopp took over, I was introduced to some of the most exciting brands of football. The kind of pressing and counter-pressing, strategic passes, and set-pieces really made me look forward to every game. With flanking right and left-backs and with some magic in the midfield with the likes of Coutinho made the game.
Since Coutinho and Emre Can left, Liverpool welcomed the talents of Allison Becker, Virgil van Dijk, Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabinho, Naby Keita, Adrian, Lonergan, Sepp van den Berg, Takumi Minamino and many others.
In June 2019, Liverpool won the Champions League after beating Spurs 2:0, after a very exciting 4:3 comeback against Barcelona.
After that, Liverpool beat Chelsea on penalties to clinch that Super Cup and beating Flamengo 1:0 for the 2019 FIFA World Club Cup.
A few months down the road, after the weeks of shutdown due to Covid-19, Liverpool became the Premier League Champions after Chelsea defeated Manchester City 2:1.
4 prestigious trophies from June 2019 to June 2020. What a time to be a Liverpool fan!
Looking back, I learned quite a bit about Klopp since the days he joined Liverpool and I think these 3 lessons will help me in the pursuit of my own success.
Lesson 1: Klopp Takes Blames & Gives Credits
One of the reasons why I think Klopp is well-loved and well-respected is that when the team goes down, he came forward to take the blame.
Oen good example was when the team did not perform to the usual expected standard against Napoli, he took the blame. You can have a look at the news article here.
Do you think this is a one-off thing? Here’s another one – When the team lost to Wolves in the FA Cup, he took the blame upon himself.
Need another example? Here it is.. There was a period when Captain Jordan Henderson was heavily scrutinized for his constant back passing, which to me is not a problem, which irritates some supporters… Klopp then came forward to take that blame.
Taking the blame removes some stress away from your team members. It allows them to focus on their duties. They will give their all because they know you have their backs.
And when a reporter praised him for the win, Klopp would simply ‘transfer’ that praise to his players. When the players really did outstandingly well, he will generously talk about them to the press.
Maybe that was why players fight to the last whistle. They play for the manager, and they play for one another.
Lesson 2: Involve All Stakeholders
One of the things Klopp addressed in the early stages was the fans. He made sure that the fans know that they have a role to play in the outcome of every game. In those days, fans were seen leaving early before the final whistle, especially when the team seemed to be losing.
He made sure the fans learned that they are the 12th player on the pitch. Their united voices rally the players to give their all, all the way until the last whistle is blown. Throughout the 2018-2020 seasons, all fans stayed till the end. When the goals came in late, you could hear the Roar of the Kop!
Lesson 3: One Game At A Time.
While the team has trophy goals in mind, they always have their focus only on the next game.
When reporters interviewed Klopp, it’s always on the next game.
When reporters interviewed the players, it’s always on the next game.
When I asked a fellow supporter on his thoughts on an opponent that was 3 games away, the answer I got was “One Game At A Time”
They are focused, both individually and as a team.
How many times have we, as managers, business owners, lost focused because of the number of things to do? And we achieved so few at the end of the year? Maybe it is time for us to take a step back and look again at the entire business processes…
Maybe it’s time to go “One Game At A Time”.
Bonus Lesson: Never Give Up!
We were down 3:0 at Nou Camp, with goals from former Liverpool player Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi. Key players like Salah and Firmino will not be playing in the second leg.
I do wonder if we can create another Istanbul miracle. Every single pundit did not believe there will be a come back when we were trailing by 3 goals. It was an impossible feat… but because the players wanted it bad, the fans wanted it bad. Salah was sitting at the stands in a black t-shirt with the now-iconic Never Give Up print. When the first whistle was blown and looking at how hungry and how dangerous every player has become.
In the first few minutes, Origi scored…
Then Wijnaldum came in to replace the injured Robertson..
Then Wijnaldum scored… Then he scored again…
Then it was a corner… Everyone saw Shaqiri walking over to the corner ball. Everyone saw Trent Alexander-Arnold walking away…
Then in a split moment, Trent turned back and kicked the ball to Origi, who reacted right, scoring that very important goal.
That was how the 4th goal was scored… If I was a Barca supporter, I think I would be crying my eyes out…
This game alone has plenty of lessons for us to take back. One of the important lessons that I shared with my children, is that most of the time, things do not go our way. Whatever the case is, we keep our feet on the ground and keep trying.
Stay humble and hustle.
Once again from me to every manager, staff, player, and owners of Liverpool FC… Congratulations and Thank you for the ride.
It’s been incredible. Let’s go again, One Game At A Time!
You’ll Never Walk Alone!