How to win over a stadium of 20,000 angry African soccer fans
“You! You cannot do that here!”
A voice in a stadium of 20,000 people told my friend he was breaking a rule. The man yelling pointed at my friend and sounded angry. A man next to the first saw what he was pointing at—my friend—and pointed and yelled he couldn’t do that here too. Then another, another, and another. Soon a whole section was pointing at him, angrily yelling at him he couldn’t do what he was doing.
But what was he doing? My friend didn’t understand what was going on. He and two of his friends had decided to go to their first soccer game in Dar es Salaam, where they’d lived for the better part of a year. They had barely walked in the stadium and suddenly, like a wave, section by section, the stadium was turning against them as each section saw what the others were pointing at. They weren’t just pointing at them. The were pointing at him. Twenty thousand people telling him he was doing something wrong.
He didn’t even know what he couldn’t do, seeing as all he did was to walk in the stadium, so how could he stop? And what do you do when twenty thousand people are angry at you anyway?
As he looked around the stadium he saw nearly everyone wore green and yellow. Then he looked at himself—what could he be doing?—and saw his bright red shirt, the only bright red shirt of 20,000 in the stadium.
He was wearing the opposing team’s colors!
What would you do in such a situation? I think most people would leave. Maybe apologize? That wouldn’t win over a crowd. And how do you apologize to twenty thousand people?
My friend wouldn’t settle for just apologizing anyway. Instead, he stood taller and prouder, stepped forward, and ripped off the bright red shirt, threw it on the ground, and, shirtless, jumped on the shirt and stomped all over it!
The crowd went wild with cheers!
He won the crowd. So simple! They loved him.
Someone from the crowd even stepped forward and gave him a new green and yellow jersey, making him part of their community.
Read my weekly newsletter
On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees