028 – Hot Brazilians Futsal Weapon

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —August 15, 2018
Filed in Business storytelling, Podcast

Tags: innovation, curiosity, soccer,

Today’s episode illustrates the importance of not just noticing a pattern of excellence, but working out why it happens.


Sometimes this means jumping in and talking to customers. It’s so easy to become disconnected as you become more senior in a company. It seems like the guys at Apple are combating that tendency and putting effort to reconnect their senior leaders with their customers. I was listening to the MacCast podcast this week and the show host, Adam Christianson, shared a story of his friend Tanner who was having trouble getting his iPhone fixed, so in frustration, he emailed Apple CEO Tim Cook ( A couple of days later he received a call from Apple, and it was Tim Cook on the line. He wanted to know what happened at each step of Tanner’s support journey and where things fell short of Tanner’s expectations. Cook said he would get his iPhone sorted out. A new one arrived the next day.

The story today comes from Leeds, UK but features Brazilian soccer. It gives us insight into what can happen if you first notice aberrations and then put an effort into working out why it’s happening. But don’t stop there. You will only really know if your discovery works when you test it and see if it pans out. This is the essence of innovation.

For your storybank

Simon Clifford is a soccer coach from Leeds, UK.

In 1997 Simon, as a young man in his early 20s, noticed that many of the best soccer players in the world came from Brazil.

And he wondered why that was.

So he backed up his bag, borrowed $8000 from friends and family, and headed over to Sau Paulo with notebook and video recorder in hand to find out why.

He was there for a year.

He saw the obvious things. Passion for the sport. Tradition. Organised training centres. Long training sessions for hours. Desperate poverty people want to get out of.

But the thing he felt was the real difference was a game all the kids played called _futabol de saleo_ – football in the room.

Played with a smaller and heavier ball. And smaller court – actually could be played just about anywhere. Five a side. So it’s played fast and close relying on great dribbling and passing skills. And because it’s fast on a smaller field, a player would touch the ball about six times more than what they would playing soccer.

Kids from 5 years old would play, and in many cases they wouldn’t walk onto a soccer pitch until they were 12 or older but with seven years futebol de salão experience. It’s now commonly called futsal.

And when they did step onto the soccer pitch, it was as if the game slowed down and there was so much room to play. An attempt to tackle a futsal player rarely flustered them, it was what they were used to. Up close and personal.

Simon is so excited by what he discovered that he returns to Leeds, quits his teaching job, and starts the International Confederation of Futebol de Salão and the Brazilian Soccer School.

He trains kids in primary and secondary school. Plays Brazilian music in practice. Lots of futsal practice. The citizens of Leeds think he’s a bit mad.

But here’s the thing. In four years Simon’s under 14 Leeds team beats the Scottish U14 national team, and then they beat the Irish U14 squad. His players join the English national team.

Leeds becomes a hotspot for UK soccer talent.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

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