Big sports events are passionate, frenetic, dramatic and super fun. Sports also reveal the character of the participants. We come to know who is persistent and fit, who has nerves of steel and can rise to the occasion. At the same time, we see who can be magnanimous and who are lousy losers. We can learn a thing or two from big players in big events. Olympics, Tour de France, Super Bowl and the Football World Cup. So many things to observe & learn. However little did I know that the qualifying rounds for big events, where some of the smallest teams compete to try to make it to the big stage can teach some rather surprising and jaw-dropping lessons.
In this post, we will see how the national football team from Barbados thought completely out of the box and managed to qualify for Caribbean Shell Cup of 1994.
- Barbados and Grenada were pitted against each other for the last round of qualifiers in the regional selections. One of the two would proceed to the Shell Cup ’94.
- Barbados needed to beat Grenada by a difference of 2 goals in order to qualify. Failing this, any other result would automatically qualify Grenada for the next round. Even a win by a difference of a single goal would not be enough for Barbados.
- This was during the days of the golden goal, wherein the team scoring first in extra time would be declared winners right away, with the other team having no chance to respond. This is in contrast to the current silver goal rule, where the extra time is played until the fully allotted half-an-hour runs out and on conceding an early goal, a team still has time to respond with a goal of their own.
However the Caribbean Football Association took the golden goal to a new level. The team scoring the golden goal would be awarded 2 goals instead of 1. This probably was to invite attacking play, thus preventing the two teams from playing out a boring extra time in order to stretch the match to the penalty shootout.
How the story unfolded
- With a dominating attacking style of play, Barbados raced away to a 2-0 lead. With a goal cushion of 2, they were in a good position to go through.
- In the 83rd minute, however, Grenada had other plans and they scored the goal that they needed to, making it 2-1.
- Barbados went looking for the 3rd goal, which would restore their 2-goal cushion. They tried hard to break down the now resolute Grenada defence for 4 minutes, until….. !!!
How the match went crazy
- You could call it sheer genius, lunacy or an act of desperation, but in what is one of the craziest ever tactic planned in football, Barbados deliberately scored an own goal to make the score 2-2 in the 87th minute!!!
Seeing no easy way to score their third goal with just 3 minutes left on the clock, Barbados surmised that they’d rather draw the match in the 90 minutes, push the game to extra time, buy some more time and score the golden goal. Remember, golden goal accounted for two goals and they had the chance to make the score 4-2 by scoring a single golden goal! This was an act of desperation. They were taking a huge risk by trying to push the game to extra time and betting on the golden goal. The risk was much bigger than they thought because…… !!!
- Grenada were shell-shocked for a moment. They couldn’t believe that they were being gifted a goal and thus the qualification. Until it dawned on them! They realised that Barbados were playing for extra time and possiblity of the double-awarded golden goal. They realised the huge risk that Barbados had taken, which would make that own goal a better gift than any Christmas gift they had ever received, because….. !!!
How the match went crazier
- Barbados’ only chance was with the golden goal in extra time. All Grenada needed to do was to make sure that there was no extra time. There had to be one more goal in the game.
- Grenada could score the winner and put the game beyond doubt, or……… they could lose the game by one goal…. which meant that they could score an own goal. That would still be enough to take them through.
- In what is the craziest football situation ever, Grenada were trying to score a goal on either end and Barbados’ players were trying to prevent Grenada from putting the ball into either net. Both sets of players were running from pillar to post, Grenada trying to catch Barbados cold by putting the ball where there were fewer Barbados players, attacking from end to end with long kicks and Barbados’ players running ragged in a desperate attempt to get to the ball first. In fact, Barbados’ players fanned out into groups of 2, with each group trying to guard each net.
- Barbados also had to ensure that the ball simply did not go anywhere close to the Grenada goalkeeper. If that happened, the goalie could simply claim the ball by picking it up and promptly kick it into his own net, taking the match to the easiest of conclusions.
- The best way for Barbados to do this was to keep the ball to themselves. There were many desperate short passes made between their players and the Grenada players were constantly trying to snap at the feet of the Barbados players in an attempt to get the ball and kick it back to their own goalie.
What happened at the final whistle?
The game thus continued in this fashion in what has been the 3+ craziest football minutes ever. To their credit, Barbados managed to hold out and play a 2-2 draw in a frenetic, exhausting 3 final minutes and whatever was added as injury time.
Infused with fresh belief, confidence and vigour and despite those exhausting final minutes, Barbados managed to find the Grenada net in extra time and win the game 4-2. For all their troubles, they booked a spot in the Shell Cup. Grenada were left thinking what could have been.
Here is a video clip of what happened that day!
Let’s infer some lessons
The first thing that we can easily note is that Barbados thought completely out of the box, while still staying within the rules. It takes a very high presence of mind to arrive at such solutions.
Secondly their entire team was on the same page, right from the coach to the management staff to each of the players. The co-operation and the faith in such difficult moments made for a well-knit team. The only people confused were the bewildered spectators!
Thirdly, we can see what a huge risk Barbados took. It put them in a position where they were left guarding two goal posts instead of one. With no regular goal in sight, Barbados had to go for broke and think of an unconventional solution. They had the conviction to take a stand and execute it.
Conventionally you win a football game by scoring past your opponent, but in such a high pressure situation, Barbados thought disruptively and scored an own goal, definitely increasing their chances of winning, but also doing something that could have failed rather easily and invited criticism, insults and ridicule. They had something ‘innovative’ and unheard of, yet controversial by society’s norms, and they had the conviction to pull it off.
While the problem of winning an almost lost football match is insignificant for the world as a whole, we have seen several personalities who have thought completely disruptively and changed the world forever.
In a world where lighting gas lamps was a widely accepted norm, Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. That was in a world which still didn’t have an electricity grid. However, we don’t need second thoughts on whether the light bulb is a success or not. The world was hardly ready for Henry Ford’s cars, when galloping on horse backs was the fastest mode of transport. We are now already into a world with Tesla Motors and electric cars.
Have you ever witnessed a situation where you or someone you know solved a problem by thinking disruptively? Do you think disruptive thinking is whimsical or a skill that can be practised and honed? Please let me know through your comments below.