Lower league football is more my thing but I do make an exception for the Portuguese team, Benfica, whose exploits I have admired since first reading about its wonderful striker, Eusebio, who was the top scorer in the 1966 World Cup. The colours, the artistry, the sheer brilliance. I could go on…
I was therefore delighted to read an article that was included in a recent copy of the Metro newspaper about the exploits of Benefica’s current, supposedly ageing captain. I read the short but graphic piece in which Luisão was described as having inspired the younger members of his team to great heights and to win a match against a very decent opposing team by a considerable margin. The stuff of Roy of the Rovers. The point of the article was that Luisão was able to encourage his teammates and stir them to great heights. The youngsters in the team got a lot of the credit but the writer of the Metro article was astute enough to identify and record their captain’s hugely significant contribution.
Sports and Civil Mediators most certainly do not dribble and they do not “lead” or instruct as might a football manager or coach. Equally, they do not take spot kicks or throw ins and there is certainly no mediation equivalent of the after match team bath. Luisão’s aim is to see if his team can get the ball in the back of the opponent’s net. The mediator’s “aim” is to try and help people whose rivalry may be as bitter as that between Benfica and Sporting Lisbon, to reach a settlement that they are both happy with – a win-win rather than a crushing four-nil victory.
I think that there are some analogies. Like football team captains, mediators plan and watch. As the captain would do during a confidential team talk or planning session mediators observe and listen. They behave positively and ensure that things run smoothly and all in attendance behave appropriately. Like sensible captain, a mediator does not order or direct those that he or she is working with and by definition will not court publicity.
In the same way that a team captain will ensure that his players do not get stuck in their own penalty box, once a mediator has identified the parties’ concerns and interests, he or she will see if they are ready to move forward. There will be no instructions but in the same way that the team captain may skilfully pass the ball through a congested midfield, the mediator will ask an appropriate question, reflect or empathise and will help to ensure that the process does not get stuck. He or she will help ensure the mediatees maintain their perspective. And in the same way that the captain will observe everything on the field of play very carefully, the mediator will do much the same thing but by listening. In a slightly slightly different role, the mediator may train or coach and like the football team captain will encourage and accentuate the positives.
The chance of anyone in the ASM team of giving up the day job and taking up football is somewhat remote and equally it is unlikely that mediation has many ex-professional footballers or indeed current ones in its ranks.
However, mediators and footballers clearly have a lot in common. In my view they could and should work together more. In helping to keep the beautiful game on an even keel timely, confidential and cost effective mediation has a lot to offer the world’s most popular spectator sport.
Principal Director of ASM PLUS, civil/commercial, workplace, employment, family and educational mediator and trainer with a judicial/legal background. He has knowledge and expertise in dispute resolution in a wide range of areas and disciplines and mediates online.