The Invisible Strong Cog in a Team

BY KENYATTA OTIENO Have you ever handed in your resignation and the management called you and tabled a counter offer, an enticing better package? This happens a lot in organizations where a very important member of the team operates under the corporate politics for a long time that the system forgets he even exists. The management wakes up when he hands in a resignation letter. The crucial role he handles in the team now comes into the spotlight, but it is always too late. Welcome to the world of defensive or holding midfielders in the world of football. When analysts engage their memory and technical prowess after a match, they will talk about the teams attack, midfield and defense. Often when they discuss the midfield, seldom will they mention the defensive midfielder. The most important link in a team is always forgotten because the onus will go to the midfield and defense leaving him hanging somewhere in between. This is exactly what happens to players like Maurice Odipo formerly of Sofapaka, Collins Okoth of Gor Mahia and Sergio Busquets and Victor Wanyama at FC Barcelona and Southampton respectively. Victor Wanyama has been pivotal for Southampton this season but all he gets is a six-week ban for accumulating three red cards. When Sofapaka had a good run in 2014 KPL season, people talked about Ekaliani Ndolo, the league’s MVP that season and striker Fiston Razak who left for South African PSL. Maurice Odipo did the dirty work in front of the defense without attracting a red card, earning his fifth yellow card on the last day of the season. Collins “Gatuso” Okoth was pivotal in Gor Mahia’s run to clinch 2015 KPL title unbeaten. At the end of the season, all you could hear was Michael Olunga and how Ugandan import, Khalid Aucho deserved the midfielder of the year award that went to Eric Johanna of Mathare United. In Europe, all the analysis on Barcelona rotates around the “MSN” -Messi, Suarez and Neymar trio. Very few people will acknowledge Sergio Busquets, the consistent pillar that sits deep behind Iniesta and Rakitic. When Barcelona was defined by their telepathic midfield duo in Xavi and Iniesta, no one ever mentioned Busquets in the same breath as his two senior teammates. Today when they talk about Barca’s midfield, they will be more on Iniesta, Rakitic or the new signing Ardar Turan than Busquets. Yet, as one writer puts it, Barca’s passing game is now revolving more around Busquets than Iniesta. Recently when Barca played Arsenal at Emirates in London in the round of 16 of UEFA Champions League, Busquets completed more passes than Iniesta. We can get the same results if we look at Arsenal Invincibles who won the EPL unbeaten and still fail to put a finger on Gilberto Silva. So, who is a defensive midfielder? This is a midfielder with a defensive streak assigned to cover the defense. His main role is to thwart the opponent’s offensive moves before they get dangerous and launch attacks once he recovers the ball. As a midfielder positioned just in front of the defense, he tends to have a wider view of his teammates and opponents. When a team prefers to build up their attack from the back, he will be the fulcrum upon which passes will revolve. For Busquets, intelligence is his cutting edge as defensive midfielders tend to be defined by their physical strength and tackling rate in their attempt to put off opponents. His intelligence fits well with Barca’s kind of passing play that is geared towards dominating every match. This also comes in handy in picking a teammate’s or opponent’s run and launching a pass or a cover. For all this work, the credit tends to go to the defense for clean sheets and the attacking midfielders for assists and shots on target. To capture Busquets’ involvement, you have to zero in on his positioning and ball touches. This shows the importance of these players yet the recognition always goes to those who complete the job. It is the same in organizational teams; the most important cog always operates under the radar. They are intelligent, in most cases introverted with a good grasp of the whole chain of written and unwritten operation procedures. They are ever ready to grab a dropping ball in good time without caring who dropped it. These are the employees who have mastered the seasons within the organization and even the trends and characters of partners and suppliers. Typical workaholics, It is easy for management to get used to the job being done without knowing who does the job as the credit goes to those who know how to “finish” off the job, seal the deal or represent themselves well. When need be, they will take one (the red card) for the team, building team cohesion out of their dependability. This is the reason why the Human Resource department will burn the midnight oil when such employees hand in their notice of resignation. The challenge is always how to convince him to change his mind. In most cases, very few people tend to understand the invisible hand that turns the wheel behind the crucial job. The scope of his abilities tend to be underestimated in the extroverted, cut throat environment that is today’s work environment. You never know the value of someone until you lose him, is an old saying that explains the exit of these extraordinary talent. Their personality means you will need to move mountains to make him change his mind. When he calls it quits, he quits. Lack of appreciation and the tendency to be bypassed during recognition like their football equivalent is always a major factor for their decision to quit. Inside every team performing at the top of their game is an obscure, hard to pinpoint individual who is a pillar of the team. Their output is hardly noticed because in most cases they tend to be the link between two crucial parts. When the numbers are added, it is the two departments or teams that tend to take the credit. It is important for managers to identify their defensive or holding midfielders and keep them motivated by appreciating them before it is too late. At a personal level, everybody needs a defensive midfielder. To perform at your best, you need a person who understands your private system of operation. This will help balance your work and personal life. In most cases, just like in the office and in a football club, we never realize the importance of such dependable hands until it is too late. When the world is celebrating Messi, Suarez and Neymar’s scoring prowess as the best attacking team in the world of football, spare a thought for the Sergio Busquets of this world. They not only deserve recognition but a worthy compensation too.

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