The week before we headed off for Madrid, Alfonso, our de-facto Captain, handed each of the players on the football team our INSEAD jerseys. Each jersey had a number, name and national flag on it. I looked around as people held their jerseys over their chests: Canadian, Spanish, Argentine, Romanian, Ukrainian, American, Norwegian, Slovakian, Turkish, Moroccan. You know the story. (For some context, think of Alfonso, as the Spanish Steve McQueen. Not sure where that gets you? Exactly!)
Practices up until now had been relaxed. But in the week leading up to the tournament, nerves were fraying. Some people weren’t comfortable with their positions. Others, passed over initially, wanted to be part of the starting 11. In my case, a few people didn’t realize that soccer existed in Canada, and were therefore surprised that I even knew the rules. One person asked if I wanted to play Patrick Roy’s position.
Remember, at INSEAD, the chemistry either works perfectly, or it goes horribly wrong. There’s no middle ground. I could tell that the football tournament would be an interesting test. My prediction: we’d be a little like Britney Spears’ career – start off golden, need some rehab and then have a glorious comeback (culminating with a GQ cover – note: we’re still awaiting offers).
We flew to Madrid on Friday last week. The men’s team had 18 players, and the women’s team 11. Together both teams had more than 30 additional supporters from the 12J class, all down to enjoy some sun, check out the Museo del Prado and party till early hours of the morning. (OK, the Museo del Prado is a cover).
Our first match on Saturday was against IESE, the Spanish business school. Sluggish from tapas and red wine, we started a little slow, but managed a draw. However, as the mid-day sun heated up, so did the INSEAD spirit. Our second match against ESSADE was a cracker as Trevor Brooking might say. Alfonso, aforementioned captain, scored two incredible goals from his natural side, the left wing; one, at an angle, that I’m not sure even Morten Bennedsen could draw on the projector (ok, so MBAs aren’t renowned for their senses of humor). Then mid-way through the second half, after a pass from yours truly, Andrei, the suave and deft Romanian striker, put one in the top corner, to seal the victory and send the INSEAD faithful (about 40 of them), gathered on the sideline, into hysterics. What can I say: it was incredible! Picture all the noise from the vuvuzelas in South Africa, and then triple it.
OK, so after the glory of our win over ESSADE, how did it all end? Well, after getting by ESSADE 3-0, we lost by the same margin to the indomitable hosts, IE Business School. This match was akin to the Toronto Blue Jays versus the New York Yankees. We were the plucky, hard-working, fan favourites (the good guys, e.g. the Jays) and they were the over-paid (no proof of that), coddled, big-city superstars (the bad guys, e.g. the Yankees). And sometimes the Bad Guys win. Maybe that’s another lesson of my MBA experience:
Even if the Bad Guys win, you can always go and have more fun afterwards (that’s the part where we danced till 6:30 in the morning!).