What Can we Learn from the Blunders of Karius in the Champions League Final?
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What Can we Learn from the Blunders of Karius in the Champions League Final?

  Jun 3 2018

# Planning and Strategy Management

The UEFA Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool that was played on 26 May 2018 was billed as a clash between 5-time Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo and in-form “Egyptian King” Mohammed Salah. But the name that was to hijack the Twitterverse was that belonging to Liverpool’s goalkeeper Loris Karius, thanks to two outrageous howlers. The 24 year old was largely blamed for the defeat, with critics speculating his Liverpool days are up.

As someone who is passionately invested in both football and capability development, my view is that blame should not fall on Karius himself, but rather on how he was conditioned to perform. The distinction may sound subtle, but is in fact a fundamental one with implications touching on several facets of how the club is managed.

The two blunders that most of us saw through our television sets are an outcome of what went into preparing Karius for that fateful night. They are but the tiny visible tip of a huge and otherwise submerged iceberg. The larger part of the iceberg, hidden from our television screens, is a conglomerate composed of complex systems and processes, including training routines, visualization techniques, mental management, life-style regiments and countless other factors. As a player, Karius is impacted by these drivers, but he is far from accountable for all of them. Granted, he shoulders responsibility for the way he played the ball into Benzema’s path for the first goal, but accountability (and blame) should fall on the individuals behind the broader modus operandi of the club. A mistake of that nature should not be allowed to happen at this level, but it was. I dare say, Karius was thrown under the bus.

Football clubs are businesses, and it is easy to draw parallels from ventures across sectors. A customer service representative yelling back at you, a faulty smart phone battery, a cancelled Uber ride and a cold pizza are never entirely the fault of a single individual. Each of these events is an outcome of a holistic system with flawed processes that are hidden away from our television screens. Corrective action at the level of hiring an alternative chef alone will not fix the pizza.

The difference between playing a champions league final and winning a champions league final is almost always decided by the faintest of margins. Behind that miss-kick, however, lies much more than meets the naked eye. Sidelining Karius will not solve the problem, Liverpool will need to dig deeper if they are to get to the root of the matter.

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