You’re Only as Good as Your Team: Lessons from New Star Soccer

New Star Soccer must be the most addictive mobile game ever created. I’ve had it installed on 3 devices and maxed out my character on each one. The idea is simple; take the role of an aspiring football star and pass, shoot and score you’re way to glory.

You witness each match from the perspective of your player. Most of the time you’re a bystander, watching things happen until the ball falls to you. It’s like that Zidane documentary where the camera is trained on him for the whole match, even when he’s doing amazingly un-superstar things like scratching his arse. So in the game you either intercept, pass or take a crack at goal. Outside each match various gauges indicate your popularity with your manager, your teammates and even girlfriends and sponsors. Not passing to your teammates doesn’t go down well but scoring a hat trick every match will make your manager ecstatic.

The game does a great job of bringing together the two main components of a classic footy game; easy to pick up but difficult to master gameplay and an array of stats to monitor success. But tellingly the stats are only centred around your player. The game isn’t about comparisons with your teammates or other stars. On the surface it all seems very selfish, the accumulation of money and luxury goods being the measure of success, but there’re deeper lessons to be learned. It’s not just about becoming the best, but how you handle it when you’ve got everything you dreamed of.

My journey to the top started at the bottom of the English leagues before rising through the ranks to play for my home team of Pompey. I then spent a few seasons at Chelsea where I was at the top of my game, winning every cup, celebrated by my manager and teammates alike. The only thing I hadn’t done was take England to World Cup glory. The World Cup was another season away and I didn’t fancy another punishing 60 game run before it arrived. Instead, I wanted somewhere to coast for awhile. I packed my bags and took my girlfriend to the glamorous shores of San Marino.

You’re Only as Good as Your Team

The San Marino first division only has about 8 teams. Great, 16 league games and no Champions League. So I signed up with COSMOS for the same extravagant wage I was on at Chelsea, probably more than my teammates collectively made in their whole careers. Trouble is the teams played each other 4 times and were absolutely useless at football. Fine, I’ll still score plenty of goals I thought but the team had no respect for me thanks to me bankrupting the club. I had to earn my place but it was nigh impossible to put in crosses for them to score. They were so slow that passes had to be inch perfect. At Chelsea I could cross in a vague direction and someone would oblige by slotting it in the goal. I was back to basics, my star status evaporating, and I was playing the toughest matches of my career.

Having Loads of Stuff Does Not Mean You’re Rich

As the season drew to a close COSMOS held near the top of the table but only a few points separated the top and bottom teams. No chasm between rich and poor clubs here, it went down to the wire. I still had the hunger to win, all my money going on energy drinks to keep me playing to the max and top notch football boots to desperately try and convert some wins. You can’t liquidate your assets so despite all my cars, helicopters, race horses and private island I couldn’t buy success. I struggled to the bitter end and still finished mid-table. My teammates must have been livid, all that money and I still couldn’t make them champions. My girlfriend was on the verge of walking out and I was completely out of practice to play on an international stage with real footballers.

Don’t Forget the Ones You Love

I couldn’t have asked for an easier World Cup group; Honduras, Montenegro and Peru. Perfect, my limited capital meant I could only afford a couple of energy drinks during the tournament so I could save them for more formidable opponents. You don’t get paid for national club matches and fan admiration doesn’t translate into cold hard cash – I’d have to ration what little I had left.

The first game saw an easy win against Honduras, I had a chance to get my eye back in for the faster paced games ahead. Then disaster; my girlfriend snapped and blabbed to the world’s press about my teammates’ bad influence. My high regard amongst the team plummeted. The next game against Montenegro was a farce, a no score draw with my very few chances blasted wide. Moral was on the floor.

I didn’t end the relationship. My obsession with success at COSMOS had driven us apart. I’d dragged her away from the big city and my energy drink addiction no doubt caused tension when I couldn’t get my hit. I vowed to treat her properly. She’d given up her life to be with me, I had to make concessions as well.

The next game saw us beat Peru to scrape through the group stages and face Ghana, another gift of an opponent that we saw off in a sterling victory. We had a bit of our mojo back but the quarter finals presented us with the dreaded France.

At the End of the Day it’s All About Luck

Enough of cruising on easy street, it was time to take on the big boys. All I could do was snap open an energy drink and take to the pitch.

It was a distinctly average game. Even giving it my all presented few chances. It just wasn’t happening, no gaps, no spark of creativity from the team. We lost 1-0. Neither team excelled but fate chose France day and that was that, the run at the World Cup was over for another four years.

As the dust settled it was time to take stock. I’d been humbled, away from the comfort of the English Premiere League my superstar status had been stripped away. I was forced to work hard again, to struggle against the odds, and was reborn as a more level-headed person. There’re no guarantees in life and I had to move forward, back to the Premiere League to rebuild my reputation but this time I wouldn’t take anything for granted…

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