A Review of Alberto Uncini Manganelli’s “Three Friends, One Game”
It was while watching his own son playing that Alberto Uncini Manganelli, author of “Three Friends, One Game”, remembered the feeling of smelling the fresh grass on Sunday morning, preparing to step out on the pitch once again. In just three weeks, he had written a book, telling the story of the impact that football has had on his life – not just on the pitch or physically (with various injuries) – but also on his way of seeing and understanding the world.
The book begins with the first meeting between the main characters, and an introduction as to just how they remained connected, which is, after all, the power of sport. The bonds created while fighting together on the pitch, talking in the locker room or going for a burger at Bologna’s “Burghy” have kept Albi, Maxi and Ricki, like for all those who have set foot on a sport pitch or court, together forever. But it is not just the individual relationships that sport forms that are critical. The idea of working as a team is critical in life, just like in sports. But what Alberto stresses in his book is that we often lose sight of the fact that collaboration does not just mean everybody does everything together merrily. And there is no better teacher of this than sport. Only one person can step up to take a decisive penalty at the last minute of the game. Just like only one person will shoot the buzzer beater in a basketball game. That one person will have trained to be ready for that moment knowing that if they succeed, the whole team succeeds. If they fail, they are the ones who will be held responsible. It is a hard truth that life does not necessarily make apparent right away, but that is clear as day in sport from the moment in which it happens.
It is the concentrated energy of the moment that makes scoring a goal so unique and special, though. In a split second, the energy goes through the roof. But perhaps even more importantly, it is the fact that you have worked all week for that moment that makes it even more special. “I tell my daughter this all the time: you don’t win a competition during the competition; you win it in training”, Alberto says, “every minute, in sport like in life, you are investing in your future”. Scoring a goal, just like swooshing a shot, landing a perfect gymnastics routine or summiting a mountain are the coronation of that work. It is also why the work itself should never be taken for granted but rather accepted willingly, with the joy of the coronation of that work in mind.
But what if you miss?
Sometimes, in today’s world, the negative hypothetical is even more important than the positive one. Sport once again teaches us. In sports, just like in life, a second chance always comes. And the devastating acknowledgement of a miss cannot prevent us from taking that second chance. This translates to life in more than one way. Firstly, failure can always be seen as temporary. Many aspects of our daily lives offer second chances almost immediately. Alternative ways to reach the same goal, achieve the same objectives. Secondly, for every door that closes, a new one opens. Maybe that miss means you will not score on that day, but an assist is always on the cards. Being ready to open that door is part of moving on from the mistake you just made. And that does not mean forgetting it, but simply not letting it hinder your future success, but rather serve as a launchpad for what that success may be.
It is for all these critical lessons that Alberto is devolving all of the profit from the book to Common Goal, a charitable organization centered around giving all children the opportunity to play sports and learn from them. The organization focuses on the development of infrastructure and education to allow everyone to run after a ball, and using sport for inclusion, bringing together people of different backgrounds. Alberto sees this as the practical contribution of his book. After all, it is a story of how football affected three young children, turning them into the men they are today, and that is what Common Goal is aiming for.
In fact, it is not just the fact that sports teach us how to deal with life. It allows us to live altogether. “When you play you are at once taken out of the world, to the point where nothing else matters, and taken fully into it, through the determination, teamwork and mentality that the game requires of you. All of those values, you take them with you once you leave the pitch, court or arena.” Just like Ivan Zazzaroni says in the preface of the book referring to sportspeople of all types, “before going to look for life outside of the pitch, [they] had already found inside the game”.