For a few weeks every four years, many of the people I work with around the globe, even some of the more reserved ones, turn absolutely bonkers. It is, of course, the World Cup.
To be clear, most of these people have traveled the world. They traverse borders for a living. They respect and can easily adapt across cultures. But during this time, they wear their national flags, sometimes literally.
For me, there always comes a moment during the World Cup in which I wonder whether global society is on the verge of collapse or on the cusp of solving its myriad problems, such as inequality and the climate crisis.
I always land in the same place. And it is a good place.
The World Cup reminds me that competition and cooperation are never that far apart. It is possible to live in a world in which people care deeply about their own countries and communities yet find ways to work and play together.
Now, I’m not so naïve to think politics and economics vanish on the football pitch. Or that competition and cooperation are easy off the field, especially when the stakes are high and the future of our world hangs in the balance. We cannot afford to ignore the most pressing problems facing global society, even for a moment. The world doesn’t stop for a penalty kick.
The World Cup displays how connected we are. Despite our loyalties, and our rivalries, we are brought together for our love of a game. We can at once care deeply about our own nation, while being part of and contributing to something bigger.
Although the tournament has never been played during this time of the year, the Northern Hemisphere’s winter months, it does not feel to me like a bad fit. This is, of course, also a festive time of the year. Because I work around the world, I’m lucky to begin sensing the spirit of the holiday season in November and keep it all the way through the Lunar New Year in January or February.
The traditions of the season highlight that we are part of larger communities. We take time to celebrate together with family and friends who share the same beliefs. We decorate our lives to show others what we care about. And, yes, we organize ourselves to help others.
For this year’s holiday message, let’s be reminded that all these communities are ultimately part of the same world in which differences in cultures, religions, histories, and more coexist and even enrich our lives. We have the remarkable capacity to play on the same field while wearing different colors. That is something worth building and protecting.
Wishing everyone in the diverse GBSN community the very best for the holidays, and always. Thank you for everything you do to make the world a better place.
CEO, Global Business School Network