As one of the powerhouses of World football, Germany, crashes out of the FIFA World Cup and another, Argentina, just scraps through to the playoffs, people are asking what has gone wrong? How could these proud nations that have integrated football into the heart of their cultural identities decline so spectacularly?

To throw some light on what might be going on I used our team performance model TRIBE to analyse an article in which Jorge Valdano, former Argentinian World Cup winner who also managed Real Madrid in the 1990’s, describes the key ingredients of the Argentinian football identity that drove success in the past and laments how this identity has been lost now.

Our research into teams across 14 sports, including football, showed teams with a strong identity outperformed those with a weak identity by more than 50% and those strong identities have five components; shared beliefs that motivate identification, emotional engagement, commitment, creativity, resilience, effort, and performance that make up the acronym TRIBE. Valdano tells the story of the Argentinian football identity and here I have organised his words using TRIBE to highlight the ingredients that once gave Argentina a compelling identity.


“Let’s go back to the start. The street was always our school, which had the great virtue of teaching us the trade, giving football a cultural weight and developing and celebrating players who were different.”


“Football matters to us; it allows us to feel like we are among the best in the world at something with huge popular significance. Its relevance is such that, to give but one example, through football we thought we had recovered the Malvinas in 1986 thanks to Diego Maradona, a national hero ever since.”


“A style that used to draw us to the stadium, where we longed to shout “olé!” every time we saw someone dribble, trick an opponent, tease them; every time we saw a lightning one-two or some expression of cunning, that astuteness – that was our life. “


“We have the genetics that can help us, a history that can propel us, a pride that will give us energy and strength.”


“Skill, quality, fantasy, cunning, precision; we need to bring that together in a style that can create a collective conviction, an identity.”

As Valdano explains “The decline begins with culture, and we have to recognise the lads gave all the huevos [balls] the fans demanded. But huevos are not enough… The lack of leadership. (Is there really no one around the national team who can shake them out of it with words worthy of the impending crisis?) The vulgarity and paucity of the debate. (Have we really forgotten what it was that made us great?) We have to evolve and after the tournament, we must begin a revolution in education that can return our lost prestige.”

I’m confident an analysis of the Germany team will reveal a similar kind of loss of identity. Indeed since I began blogging about sports teams in 2013 the creation (i.e. All Blacks) or loss of identity has been a consistent predictor of the rise and fall of teams.

If you are involved in a team that has lost its identity or are a leader who doesn’t know how to create a performance identity give me a call.

From “What’s wrong with Argentina? We now value ‘balls’ more than talent.” Guardian online.




About the author…

Jeremy Holt

Jeremy Holt

Founder & CEO

I am a Chartered Occupational Psychologist with 24 years’ experience of consultancy and coaching, training. I got a First Class Honours degree in Social Psychology from University of Kent and worked in London advertising agencies for seven years before taking an Occupational Psychology MSc at Cranfield in 1993. I founded the Centre for Team Excellence in 1999, having first worked in a small psychology consultancy.


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