Displacing Incumbents

Roger Milla helped light up Italia 90.  He was the perfect antidote to the defensive footie and cheating Latinos that had plagued much of the preceeding tournaments.  Possibly in his early-fifties even back then, as Westerners like to think can only happen in Africa, the Cameroon President made the national team coach take him to football’s World Cup.  On Saturday I was reminded of all this on the way to a barbie, reading a Euro2008 broadsheet preview mag, and lamenting the fact that we’d somehow contrived to outdo the taylor of 94, and plummetted to new depths through our mclaren.

Alright, so he claimed he was actually ‘only’ 38, but that still made Roger old enough to be the father of most of the rest of the squad.  He recounts how when he joined up with his team-mates, he was greeted by “collective rejection”.  He knew he was in for a rough ride.  So how did he transform from local pariah to global saviour?

Well, when I read this, I instantly thought of how tricky it is to be entertained by a prospect that has (perhaps several) suppliers already in place, and therefore way above you in the pecking order.  When performing the occasional ‘account management’ duties for products with clear competitors, I always revelled in subtly discussing the tangible cash costs and headaches of switching suppliers, and how all that inevitable downtime, re-training, mistakes and process-changes caused costs to balloon, and careers to slide.

Roger’s masterstoke was to speak out at a squad meeting.  He made his intentions plain.  He was there “not to take a place, but to win one“.  He set out to work hard and get selected on merit.  The result was game-changing appearances off the bench, a superb goal against England and that impressive waggle to celebrate with the corner flag…. if only Nigeria hadn’t fallen asleep in the last couple of minutes against Italy four years later, then maybe he’d have paved the way for the first African World Champions.

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