BY Russell Wardrop

DATE: 25 JUN 2012


It’s called the Panenka, feathering the ball in a gentle arc down the middle, leaving Joe Hart on his backside. It’s not always Joe Hart but it is often an English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh goalkeeper. After Pirlo’s spot-kick, blue chests puffed and white shoulders slumped simultaneously. England never scored another, Italy never missed. Find a screenshot of his teammates after the kick, belief all over their faces.

How do you do the Panenka? Even down the park with your ten year old daughter as goalie, it’s not as easy as it looks. Confidence would come top of any list of traits, but it’s not enough. Gerrard, Wellbeck and Rooney do not have a confidence deficit.

This is a public speaking blog, so where’s the link, apart from my own love of The Beautiful Game and Dundee United?* Well, the pressure of the big audience is similar to putting that ball on the spot: it’s no longer a team game, there’s just you and your technique.

On the prom in Costa Brava a few years ago I saw a class of ten year old Spanish kids doing football practise on the beach: Both genders, all shapes and sizes, no teams, no goals, no shouting parents or teachers: Just joy. Tiki- taki stuff, unsurprisingly.

It seems while the FA were spending three quarters of a billion on a new stadium other nations did something else. Amongst other things, they had ten times as many coaches as us: Spain get Iniesta; England get Milner. Don’t even ask me about Scotland; Milner would be in our first eleven every time.

For those not interested in football Google this wee genius from Barcelona, and then tell me what he does is not art.

When it comes to public speaking too many of us try to build the big stadium. We spend too much of our precious time on graphs, slides and other paraphernalia rather that on the art of oratory. (Prezi anyone?) The result is that too many important business presentations are boring, read, technology-led. They are the big lad who can get up and down the park all day and is always in the team because he has “a good engine”. Spotting the ball, he shuts his eyes and smashes it as hard as he can in the direction he is facing. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

Pirlo? In front of his biggest ever audience he’s got a flipchart and a pen. For sure, he’s an artisan who will put in a shift for the team. But he’s also an artist. He’s got a story to write, and he’s  waited for the big stage to deliver it.

Does Pirlo practice? Of course, but he practices the right things. Tiki-taki stuff. As for public speaking by leaders, inspiring others is often the aim; boring them with a rigid formation is often the result.

And don’t even get me started on the idea that you should, in public speaking and in football, be willing to take a few risks.

*Played four, won four against FC Barcelona in European competition.


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about the author

Russell Wardrop is our Chief Executive. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.

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