The whites of his eyes glow like high beam headlights. Streams of blood run down his face through the soaked bandage, forming droplets that fall from his chin. The shirt, once pure white, looks like it was mopped up in a slaughterhouse, and the three lions that adorn it on the front are drenched in the wounds of war. A blood-soaked captain’s armband compresses his left bicep.

Of course, iconic image Terry Butcher, who left the Rasund pitch in September 1989 after the England captain drew 0-0 against Sweden. This point secured England qualification for the 1990 World Cup. Eight years later, England captain Paul Ince left Rome’s Olympic Stadium. the same bloody messagain after a goalless draw which also secured a place in the World Championship.

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These two scenes embody many people’s ideas about inspired leadership. The captains of that era were big characters and the so-called “tough men” who operated in midfield and were responsible for devastating tackles as well as goosebump-inducing speeches to their teammates. But when England play Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium on November 21, Harry Kane will be ahead of the team in the first leg of the 2022 World Cup.

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The Tottenham soft-spoken striker is not known for his rousing eloquence; however, he will become the proverbial “first on the training ground” and the first to go to bed with a protein shake at night. Kane is the power of professionalism, not individuality.

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Aware of this burden of responsibility, England manager Gareth Southgate created a “leadership group” to support Kane, and together they established the team’s culture and values ​​for a generation that has high social expectations for its heroes. And it worked. The country reunited with its team and England reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and the final of Euro 2020.

When Kane wears the OneLove headband at the World Cup in Qatar, he will support the LGBTQ+ community. This is what is required of a modern captain much more than screaming, pointing fingers and putting his head where it hurts. The one who wears the bandage is now the banner bearer.

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Think back to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Inspired by his iconic blue armband, Diego Maradona has written his name into World Cup history by inspiring a limited Argentine team to absolute glory, restoring the pride of a nation recovering from the Falklands War.

All of this raises a number of important questions ahead of the tournament: Do people care what you stand for when you risk losing a vital game? When the fans are booing and the team needs someone to step up, how can the captain act on the pitch? How important can one player be?

What does the captain do

Hold the captain’s armband. It is nothing more than a lightweight piece of stretch fabric which, according to the English Football Association’s rule book, indicates the owner’s “status” so that he can “provide support in the management of discipline on the field of his teammates.” Oh, and they call heads or tails before the game starts.

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However, it also weighs a lot more. “The media and fans just see the captain tossing a coin, but that’s more important,” explains former Everton skipper Don Hutchison. “There are a million things the captain has to do before you even take the field, from arranging visits to the hospital to making sure everyone has enough free tickets for friends and family.

“The most important thing is to ensure communication between the coach and the players. At Everton, I listened to the guys talking in the dressing room, which could be ‘we’re not training hard enough’, and then, without naming names, I would go to the head boy, Walter Smith, and say: ‘The guys want to practice some more.’ And he will take it into account.”

Mutual respect and trust are the foundation of an effective relationship between manager and captain. The captain must share ethics, set standards and act as a link between staff and players.

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Researchers at Northumbria University asked 15 managers, including Premier League bosses, what they want from their captains. The results revealed a number of leadership qualities, including the ability to motivate, communicate, work consistently, understand the game, and make the right decisions—all of which also make a good manager. Their captain is an extension of themselves on the pitch, on the training ground and in the WhatsApp group.

Hutchison reports that Smith will be testing his players to see if they have any leaders. “After one bad game,” recalls Hutchison, “he came to me in the dressing room and showered me with verbal abuse. wall, yelling, “You will never play for this football club again.” On Monday morning he asked me, “Do you think Duncan Ferguson is a hard man?” and I said yes. Do you think Dave Watson is a cool person? ‘Yeah.’ — And Dave Unsworth? ‘Yeah.’ “Where were those three when I put you up against the wall?”

“He was testing the group to see if we would all stick together or if everyone would take care of themselves. He said, “You stood up for yourself. You will be the new captain. I’m removing the bandage from Duncan Ferguson.” .’ It was interesting because I was sitting next to Duncan in the dressing room. It was torture.”

human touch

It takes not only the heart, but also the brains to challenge the manager. After all, players can also have tactical acumen.

“We were preparing for a big game and I felt like the whole team did not feel ready for the tactics we had chosen,” recalls Magda Eriksson, Chelsea women’s captain. “I went to [manager] Emma Hayes and told her how the band felt. It was very uncomfortable, but I felt I had to. Luckily we had a good conversation because she is a good listener and we ended up winning that game.”

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The manager-captain relationship is “absolutely vital,” says Shrewsbury Town boss Steve Cotterill. Reflecting on a 27-year managerial career and 10 teams in the English Football League, Cotterill names Aaron Wilbraham (now his assistant) as his most trusted assistant on the pitch. “We worked together at Bristol City and he was aware of the environment,” recalls Cotterill. “He knew who lacked self-confidence and when to make fun of the best players if they started believing everything that was written about them.”

The Shrew Boss is looking for captains with emotional intelligence, not just aggression. “In the modern game, captains need empathy,” he explains. “This is where the role has changed a bit. Years ago, a captain would say to someone, “Are you okay?” and he’d say, “Yes, I’m fine,” and that’s it. to open these days, and a good captain will help them. It’s about trust, and trust is built over time. You need a captain who gives back to the group and doesn’t worry about getting recognized.”

For Nigeria captain William Trost-Ekong, the captaincy is also a permanent role. “Player access has changed,” says the Watford defender. “Now the media is covering social media 24/7, so you can’t take that captain’s hat off. More access means more responsibility.

These responsibilities also extend much further. Former Burnley captain Ben Mee spoke passionately of his shame and anger after seeing a banner reading “White Lives Matter – Burnley” flying over the Etihad Stadium as his team faced Manchester City in 2020. Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson was awarded the MBE for his services. to charity during the COVID-19 pandemic as the driving force behind the Players Together initiative, which encouraged professional football players to donate to the National Health Service. England captain Kane said he wanted to “shine light” on human rights issues in Qatar as campaigners urge captains to do more at the World Cup. Troost-Ekong, whose Nigerian team nearly qualified, understands the sense of duty.

“We have to remind ourselves how sometimes football is inappropriate,” he says. “It would be a shame if people don’t use their platforms to highlight these issues. The whole world is watching and coaches and captains can speak for people who don’t have a voice. It’s a responsibility.”

The 29-year-old is an ambassador for Juan Mata’s Common Goal, a charity that encourages footballers to donate their hard-earned money to good causes, as well as combating racism and drawing attention to diseases afflicting parts of Africa.

“As captain of the Nigerian national team, everything I do consumes millions,” explains Troost-Ekong. “Sometimes I am in a room with world leaders or people who can influence the lives of my compatriots. Having two children changes my moral compass. I want to do something that they can be proud of, not just looking back. in game statistics and achievements.

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Eriksson, the Swedish international who is in a relationship with Chelsea teammate Pernille Harder, feels the same way. “I want to be a role model,” the Blues captain told Sportzshala. “We should try to use our platforms to make a difference in society. Leadership is no longer associated with shouting and aggression: it only makes things worse. Now it’s about communication.”

Philip Lahm agrees. Since retiring in 2017, the former Bayern Munich and Germany captain has used his podium to confront a range of social and sporting controversies, including FIFA’s decision to award this year’s World Cup to Qatar. In addition, Lam’s calm but confident leadership led Team to victory in 2014 by challenging Germany’s notion of what leading player (“leader”) should be.

“I don’t like the term [Fuhrungsspieler], – he said. — For me, there is no clear definition of this term. Why [Stefan] Effenberg leader: was it because…