This is a homage to my Mexican friends and also a story about the importance of empathy and human connections at work, with football (some say soccer) involved for intercultural understanding.
It was very nice to learn (and a pleasant surprise as well), that my team in the German Bundesliga, VfB Stuttgart, had supporters in Mexico. This was, because Ricardo Osorio and Pavel Pardo, both Mexican, played at Stuttgart and won the German title at the Bundesliga in 2007. Their jerseys were popular and so the nice picture was taken during one of my work visits at the Celanese plant at Ocotlan at the Mexican state of Jalisco.
It happened to be that during the World Cup 2018 I just stayed there for a couple of days, including this unlucky day – from a German point of view – when The Mannschaft lost to Korea and left the tournament. The Mexicans, however, reached the next round despite the defeat against Sweden. Mexico owed this (to some extent) to the German defeat. Both games ran at the same time during the lunch break. After that, my meeting with the plant’s management team was scheduled.
When I entered the room, there was an oppressive silence, nobody could or wanted to look me in the eye. Were they allowed to be happy now, in my presence?
In this silence suddenly came the ping tone of an incoming WhatsApp message on my mobile phone. “From my daughter,” I explained to the questioning faces in the room. The message came through just 15 minutes after the games finished. “Despite the defeat of our team“ she wrote, “I still love you,” I read out loud.
To be honest, this moment touched me a lot. Reading this, very personal and loving message, out loud had broken the ice in the room. A very valuable discussion began, of course also about the games, but above all about what is really important in life, both inside and outside the professional environment.
What really impressed me was the empathy my management team at Ocotlan showed me. Everyone knew about my enthusiasm for football and my previous role as a football coach and how disappointed I was when the German team was knocked out of the tournament. I was and am very grateful for this sympathy. But not because this defeat weighed so heavily – that is easy to cope with – but because it brought the employees in the plant much, much closer to me.
Cheers Mexico. My respect to a great football nation.