On soccer and creativity

This is a story about being creative and the Danish football team winning the European Championship back in 1992.

I find that starting at the beginning is always a nice way to start. So let’s rewind to the year 1992.

The Danish football team had missed the qualification for the European Championship. Basically that meant that the players could go on vacation before the next season. Barbecue with the family and deep bottles of red wine, enjoying those magical scandinavian summer evenings, where the sun barely dips below the horizon. Less than a month later they would return as winners of the European Championship. And for a country with a population of around 5 million people, going up agains some of the best in the business, that’s no small feat.

Weeks before the tournament, war breaks out in Yugoslavia and sanctions under UN Security Council Resolution 757 banned them from appearing. Denmark were runners-up in the group and took their spot.

They had a week to get ready. That’s not a lot of time to get ready for a Championship tournament. With no training, the team corked the wine and got on a bus to Sweden to play against some of the best teams in the world. Safe to say expectations were low. Like they couldn’t fail low.

First match is against England — a draw. Then a loss to Sweden. They defeat France 2–1 and then The Netherlands after a round of penalty kicks 5–4, bringing Denmark to the final match against Germany. That match, and the trophy, was won 2–0.

Nobody could believe that Denmark could sweep in on a wildcard and take the trophy. But the interesting part, in regards to being creative, isn’t just what happened on the field, but more so what happened in between.

After the game against France the coach decided to cancel training and instead take the team out for a round of minigolf. Pictures of the Danish team in flip flops playing minigolf in between games hit the Danish newspapers. Nobody cared.

Normally in a tournament that important, the players are on a pretty strict diet. But after the victory over France the entire Danish Team went to McDonalds to celebrate. The team had made it to the semi finals and if they didn’t win another match, they would still be greeted as heroes upon return to Denmark.

After the win over The Netherlands the coach left the lobby, after playing the piano and singing for hours, and told the team to get some sleep. When he got up the next morning the players were still sitting around the piano playing and drinking. They were playing Germany in the finals three days later.

In all of the above matches you would wittness a team playing their hearts out. Not in a planned and strategic way. More like a playfull, playing for fun, kind of way.

You know that feeling when you’re stressed out and the deadlines are breathing down your neck? That’s not the best setting for being creative. The best setting is when you don’t feel the pressure and can play around, try out stuff. Low expectations creates freedom and frees up creative bandwith.

So the next time you’re stressed out about a project, spending 94% of your energy on just controlling your blood pressure, maybe blow off half a day and ride your bike around. Call an old friend and go out to dinner or a round of mini golf.

I’m https://twitter.com/Aweiland on twitter if you need me!