Research The Factors Contributing To Foreign Players’ Success In The J-League – Interviews With Their Interpreters

Kei Hisanaga (Okayama university of science)


In professional sports such as soccer and baseball, players are increasingly moving around the world. In this context, some top professional players with high technical, tactical, and physical characteristics are able to play in foreign countries, while others are not. This phenomenon can also be seen in the J-League, Japan’s professional football league. In this article, these factors are identified from a CQ (Cultural Intelligence) perspective through interviews with their interpreters on how three foreign players who played in the J-League were able to adapt to different cultures and perform at a high level on the pitch.

They were able to gather information about the country they were playing in on their own, and with their interpreters’ help, they could create an environment in which they could concentrate on their playing. The similarities between their cultural background and Japanese culture also helped their cross-cultural adaptation. From their case studies, it became clear that gathering information in advance, learning from experience, building relationships, and having supportive staff are necessary elements for cross-cultural adaptation in the J-League.


soccer, foreign players, interpreters, cross-cultural adaptation


In professional sports, including soccer and baseball, transnational player transfers are common. Many teams have scouting staffs worldwide looking for talented foreign players who can play as an immediate asset. In European soccer, since the Bosman ruling in 1995, players with EU nationality are exempt from the foreign quota in the European countries leagues. In Japan, players with non-Japanese nationality are restricted from playing in matches as foreign nationals. Before the start of the 2022 season, the total number of players in the J-League, Japan professional football league (Divisions 1-3), was 1,759, of which 156 were foreign nationals, the largest number being 89 from Brazil, followed by 21 from South Korea, six from Spain. The entry restrictions in the COVID-19 pandemic probably impacted the registration of foreign players, but many teams still had foreign players as helpers. In the 2021 season, LEANDRO DAMIAO, who belonged to J-League Division 1 champion Kawasaki Frontale won J-League MVP. This is the second consecutive year a foreign player has won MVP, following OLUNGA (Kashiwa Reysol) in the 2020 season. In addition, four or more foreign players have been selected for the Best Eleven Players Award for four consecutive years. While some foreign players play an active role in the J-League every season, others leave the team without having achieved the success they were expected to. Since the beginning of the J-League in 1993, world-famous players joined several teams and were expected to play a significant role. However, some players have left Japan without achieving the desired results. For example, players who played for their national teams at FIFA World Cups such as LINEKER (England, 1993-1994, 18 appearances, four goals), BEBETO (Brazil, 2000, 8 appearances, 1 goal), and FREDRIK LJUNGBERG (Sweden, 2011, 8 appearances, 0 goals). It is not that they were not talented, but that they could not show what they had in the J-League. Thus, a team needs to acquire competent players and, at the same time, have the management skills to ensure that the players can show their abilities.

  1. Overview of the research

2.-1 Objective

As mentioned in the introduction, some talented foreign players can play an active role in the J-League while others do not. The author considered that the country’s cultural background might impact the factors that make the difference. For example, there are different difficulties for players brought up in a European culture playing in Japan, which is part of Asia, compared to playing in the same European countries. One of these is language, and when a J-League team acquires a foreign player, they usually provide the player with an interpreter to cover the language differences. The interpreter’s role is to support communication between the player and the coaching staff and between the players and eliminate any inconvenience in their lives. Therefore, interpreters always think about how they can help their foreign players perform better in Japan. With the support of these interpreters, the foreign players live in Japan and try to show their true potential on the pitch. This suggests that the role of interpreters significantly impacts the performance of foreign players in the J-League. Therefore, the aim of this article is to clarify the factors that contributed to the players’ adaptation to a different culture, Japanese soccer, from the perspective of the interpreters of foreign players who played an active role in the J-League.

2.-2 Subjects and methods


Interpreter-A: Japanese nationality (interpreter of Japanese and Spanish).

  • Player-a: Spanish nationality. Represented the national team. he played five seasons in the J-League, with 108 league-matches appearances and 21 goals (as of 15 August 2022).

Player-b: Spanish nationality. Represented the national team. He played one season in the J-League, with 28 league-matches appearances and 13 goals.

Interpreter-B: Japanese nationality (Japanese and English interpreter).

  • Player-c: Swedish Nationality. Represented the national team. He played three seasons in the J-League, with 90 league-matches appearances, and seven goals.


An unstructured interview was conducted with each interpreter. Then, utilizing CQ’s six-dimensional model, the elements of the success of foreign players were considered from the interview contents. CQ (Cultural Intelligence) is a score of cultural differences proposed by Dr. Geert Hofstede and expressed in six dimensions: PDI (Power Distance), IDV (Individualism), MAS (Masculinity), UAI (Uncertainty Avoidance), LTO (Short vs. Long Term Orientation), IVR (Indulgence vs. Restraint)

  1. Interview results and discussion

3.-1 Japanese soccer from the CQ perspective

The scores of the six-dimensional model of CQ for Japan as a comparison for consideration from the interviews are as follows.















Table 1. Scores for Japan (prepared by the author based on Miyamori et al. (2019))

As shown in Table 1, Japan is characterized by rather high scores for MAS and UAI. These are likely to significantly impact the J-League itself, which takes place in Japan. Due to MAS and UAI scores, passing soccer tends to be favored in Japan. England, with its low UAI score (35), delights in kick-and-rush and 1vs1 battles, while many teams in Japan prefer soccer that is more focused on passing, where the ball can be reliably carried.

Japan also has a medium level of PDI and IDV, which means that Japan can understand both sides of the power divide – high and low power inequality, collectivism and individualism.

3.-2 Interpreter-A for Spanish national Player-a


























Table 2: Comparison of scores between Spain and Japan (prepared by the author based on Miyamori et al. (2019))

According to Interpreter-A, the following are some characteristics of the support he provided to Player-a.

▪ It was the first time for him and his family to live in a foreign country (beforehand, he had heard from an acquaintance that Japan was safe)

  • The family had a positive impression of Japan as soon as they arrived. They were not approached when they walked around the city and were gently left alone. They could go where they wanted to go when they wanted to go. The family could live in their own rhythm.
  • The most worrying thing was finding a hospital for the children.

The fact that Player-a had collected information about Japan in advance of playing in his first foreign country shows that he could solve the uncertainty avoidance problem. From this, it can be read that Player-a valued his family life, which is reflected in the MAS score in the six-dimensional model. And the fact that interpreter-A provided solid support to ensure the quality of life, such as finding a hospital for the children, helped create an environment in which Player-a could concentrate on playing soccer without worrying about their families.

  • He always pointed out the quality of the team’s playing position when they had the ball.

Concerning the soccer aspect, as mentioned in 3.-1, many teams in Japan are oriented toward passing-oriented soccer. This is also the case for the team that Player-a belonged to. Spain also traditionally has a soccer orientation with an emphasis on passing. Still, both countries have high UAI scores and similar soccer styles, which led to Player-a’s ability to play an active role in the J-League.

3.-3 Interpreter-A for Spanish national Player-b

Interpreter-A was also the interpreter for Player-b. According to him, the characteristics are as follows.

  • He had played in foreign countries and was used to living in different cultures.
  • The city where the team is located was originally a city with a large foreign population.

Unlike Player-a, Player-b and his family had lived abroad in the past and were used to living in a different culture. This could have been a plus for them, whose Spanish culture tends to avoid uncertainty (UAI). In addition, the city where Player-b and his family spent most of their time is inhabited by foreigners and were less likely to be singled out. Again, this is similar to Player-a.

  • Player-b, whose job is to score goals, was committed to scoring points, and to achieve this, he put a lot of effort into building relationships with his teammates. For example, he went to dinner with his teammates and gave them gifts to strengthen their friendship. But unfortunately, the achievement-oriented (MAS) Japanese are hesitant to talk to each other for fear of miscommunication. Therefore, while the Japanese players were asking how Player-b was doing, Player-b had an open mind to the Japanese players, calling them by name frequently and talking to the younger players about their hair and other unimportant topics, thus proactively closing the distance between them.

This can be read as a sign of the combination of the proximity of IDV to Japan, where they can take a moderate position and the Spanish cultural characteristic of focusing on the quality of life (MAS).

3.-4 Interpreter-B for Swedish nationality Player-c



























Table 3: Comparison of scores between Sweden and Japan (prepared by the author based on Miyamori et al. (2019))

Interpreter-B said that he had noticed the following in supporting Player-c with English.

  • Respectful as a person. Always positive, always without any hidden side. Considerate of others. Encouraging young players. He is ranked No. 1 in Sweden in terms of players he would like to pass on to the next generation.
  • Picturesque family. Values his family. Balances home and work. Conveying love. As he came to Japan alone, it was difficult in some aspects to control the loneliness.

The Swedish cultural traits of emphasis on quality of life (MAS) and high orientation towards fulfillment (IVR), in which everyone supports each other, can be read from these.

  • He was very frustrated when the team lost, or he didn’t get a chance to play. He was frustrated, but he practiced hard. He always gave his best. He was a very competitive person, always trying to improve his condition through diet, treatment, and, if necessary, running on his days off.

This aspect of being competitive and willing to work hard to improve can be interpreted as high individualism (IDV).

There are relatively significant differences in CQ scores between Sweden and Japan. If Player-c had pushed his cultural background as it was, he would not have performed well in the Japanese culture. This is where the support of Interpreter-B would have been significant. Interpreter-B had himself studied in the USA and knew the difficulties of living in a different culture. Therefore, Interpreter-B judged that he was expected to stand up to Player-c like a friend, family member, and lover, and he supported him with these things in mind. For example, he accompanied Player-c to the hospital and explained Japanese culture to him so he could play comfortably. The fact that such a relationship between the two was established, with the interpreter providing support and the player accepting it, can be attributed to the low power distance of the Swedish culture (PDI).


As has been mentioned, the three players could play an active role in the J-League because they could adapt to the Japanese culture, either on their own or with the help of interpreters. However, the three cases showed that prior information gathering, learning from experience, building relationships, and a supportive staff were necessary for their adaptation. In particular, in the J-League environment, where the main language is different from their countries, it became clear that it is essential to support foreign players in a way that goes beyond simply conveying the language. It is also significant that Interpreter-A and Interpreter-B, the subjects of this interview, have a Japanese cultural background and were able to take a middle ground, which made it easier for them to support players to adapt to different cultures.

On the other hand, when foreign players transfer between countries that speak the same language, such as English-speaking countries, interpreters may not be necessary. In such cases, for the foreign player to be successful in that country, it may be essential to have staff who support cross-cultural adaptation in a form other than interpreting or for the player to have knowledge of cross-cultural adaptation.

Finally, in the interviews conducted for this research, both interpreters were seen to lump together the factors that contribute to the success of foreign players, such as ‘professionalism’ and ‘great human qualities. While there may be such factors, it was realized that a CQ perspective could help in a way that considers the differences in cultural background between the players and the countries in which they play. From this point of view, it would be of great significance to spread knowledge of CQ to many people in the professional sports world, including soccer.


(1) J. LEAGUE Data Site

(2) Chikako Miyamori, Ryukichi Miyabayashi. [Cross-cultural adaptability as a management strategy] Keieisenryaku toshiteno ibunkatekiouryoku (in Japanese). JMA Management Center Inc. 2019

(3) Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, Michael Minkov. [Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, 3rd ed: Intercultural Cooperation and Its Importance for Survival] Tabunkasekai (in Japanese). Yuhikaku Inc. 2013

(4) Wursten Huib. The 7 Mental Images of National Culture Leading and managing in a globalized word (2019)ISBN-10: 1687633347 ISBN-13: 978-1687633347

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Coaching In The UK (Arsenal) And Germany (Wolfsburg) How I Adapted.

Jan van Loon

International soccer coach

When I was asked as a Dutchman to work for Arsenal FC Academy in London UK, I was 49 and had many experiences doing multiple, but short coaching clinics worldwide.

This job was different because at Arsenal I would work with players and coaches for a longer period. In practice it became three years. Because my children where in their 3rd/4th grade in school and had to do exams in two or three years we didn’t want to make them move to the UK because the school systems are totally different from each other’s.  They were also too young to leave them alone in the Netherlands. So, I went without wife and kids to the new job. I decided to choose for a guest family and that worked out well.

I was connecting with the whole family and friends who were also all lifelong Gunners. I was invited for dinners, birthdays and Sunday roasts which helped me socially.


At the Arsenal I experienced my English was not good enough yet to follow discussions

between staff at lunchtime. Afterwards I would sit down and write down all the words and sayings the staff used to express themselves. During training sessions and games of the players aged 12-16 years old, I had to learn the UK football language very quick. I asked the players to help me and write down 5 important coaching words that would help me forward and create a better understanding between me, the players, and coaches.

Multi-Cultural environment, club philosophy and identity.

After a few weeks I also worked with players from 16-22 years old. The background of the players was very diverse because London is a multi-cultural city and employees, and players were put at Arsenal in a multicultural environment. Next to that we had trialist worldwide who often didn’t speak English. Arsenal FC has a clear club philosophy on diversity. They used to say difference is a positive. The first few weeks I followed the clubs on boarding process for newcomers. I felt responsible for being a good employee for Arsenal FC with respect for the values of the club, cultural background of players and staff and didn’t want to leave my own upbringing too much.


Before I moved to London, I was able to attend the course “Coaching across culture” by Huib Wursten and learn about the 5D Model of Gert Hofstede. And the culture clusters developed by Huib.

The culture clusters taught me the following.

The Network (Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands) put a strong emphasis on equality, Autonomy, Sympathy for underdog, People are suspicious about winners and heroes, “Truth is found in the middle, Decisions based on “shared interest”, Reflect before you act and there is reluctance to enforce rules.

The Contest: (UK, USA, Australia, Canada) put emphasis on Competition, Accountability, Winning/losing, Success breeds success, Sympathy for winners and best practices.


I was well prepared and felt comfortable working at Arsenal FC. Specially because besides my cultural background I also have a personal preference and that is competition driven. Somehow, I couldn’t develop and show that as much in the Netherlands as in my time the UK.

I learned how important it is to teach newcomers the values of the company and develop a on boarding process for new players, parents and staff.


In the cultural framework the Well-Oiled Machine (Germany, Austria, Hungary, German speaking Switzerland) High need for structures and process, Autonomy within structure, Standardization, Belief in experts, Reflect before you act.

After three years Arsenal in London, I got the opportunity to work in the highest professional football league in Germany (Erste Bundesliga) I became assistant coach at VFL Wolfsburg the VW (Volkswagen) club.


My previous reparation was met by reality. Wolfsburg is a very well-organized football club with both men and women sites with also academies on both sides. The club was big on high tech and data. VW had all IT resources to support. For all jobs there was a clear standardization with structures and process in place.


I was head analyses of the first team and responsible for the analyses of the next opponents and assistant coach, who would look after the B-team players that trained with the first team. The club wanted all departments to work together in one digital platform from the youngest boys and girls in the academy till the first team men and women could all use the digital platform.

A case about expert expectations

When I was 4 weeks in the job, I got an invitation to listen to a presentation of a digital platform, the club wanted to use for all departments. I met all departments of the club who would work with the digital platform, and we were together with 20 German colleagues (+ me) in the room to listen to a high-tech presentation of the biggest IT company in Germany. 14 of the 20 colleagues I had never seen before. The digital platform was shared in a presentation of 50 slides and was worked out to the smallest detail. After the presentation which I saw for the first time, everybody looked at me and asked what my thoughts were. I felt people expected me to take the lead and guide the process forward. I am used to make people responsible and work in teams who would work together and then to coordinate a bottom-up approach. Afterwards it became clear to me the people in the room expected me to lead and be very clear what everybody should do and when they would have to report to me. That was an important lesson in cultural diversity between my expectations and the expectation of my German colleagues. A possible explanation of miscommunication or different expectations could be found in the cultural reference.

Next step

My experience now is that it pays o become more aware of expectations and dig deep to understand what is required for the job. Not only the job description but also the individual and collective programming. For me it helped to reflect in different ways after an event/activity what everybody’s experience was and take time off for myself to reflect what the changes did with me personally.

This drives me now that I am working in India for one of the biggest football clubs. A club with great ambition with first team and academy. This time I will ask and explain more in detail what my reasons are for acting.

New approach

India is part of the Family system. Like China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Singapore. Keywords: Strong hierarchy, paternalistic leadership strong in-groups/out-group thinking. Harmony is important and loss of face unacceptable.


Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G.J., & Minkov, M. (2010). “Cultures and Organizations, Software of the Mind”, Third Revised Edition, McGrawHill 2010, ISBN 0-07-166418-1. ©Geert Hofstede B.V. quoted with permission

Wursten Huib. The 7 Mental Images of National Culture Leading and managing in a globalized word (2019) ISBN-10: 1687633347 ISBN-13: 978-1687633347

Applying Cultural Theory To Sports Coaching

Applying Cultural Theory To Sports Coaching

Wim Koevermans

Head of Coach Education for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC)


In 2012 I signed a contract as Head Coach of the Indian National Football (soccer) Team.

With my experience of 4 years working in the Republic of Ireland as High-Performance Director for the FAI (Football Association of Ireland) with not too big a difference in cultural behavior between Ireland and the Netherlands, I knew I had to study quite a bit more about India and the differences in leadership and behavior before traveling to this amazing country.

I studied and learned about the cultural dimensions of Prof. Geert Hofstede.

Incredible valuable information to understand the differences between people of different backgrounds.

I was invited to India for four days first to experience the different environments and to have meetings with the staff of the AIFF (All India Football Association).

As I never walked away from new challenges, I decided to take the job.


My preparation for the job started back home.

I got in touch with Huib Wursten of ITIM (Institute for Training Intercultural Management), explained my personal situation, and asked Huib if he could brief me on the cultural aspects of leadership and coaching in India. I met Huib for the first time when I was working for the KNVB (Dutch Football Association). I was given, together with a colleague, two assignments in Asia, one in China and one in Japan. Both were Youth Coaches Coaching Courses.

We got a short briefing by Huib before travelling to China. I remember that the information provided by Huib made it possible that we had a successful course in both countries.

We decided to have the meeting at Amsterdam International Airport hours before my departure to Delhi. I also invited the Technical Director of the AIFF (All India Football Federation), a Dutchman as well, to join me. He was already in the job for a little over a year.

The briefing was very to the point and aimed at specific coaching aspects on- and off the pitch and daily life aspects. During the presentation and after looking at all the information, the TD started laughing and told us that, looking at the presentation, he had already made quite a few mistakes in managing staff in the office in his first year in Delhi. He was unaware of the impact of the difference in leadership between the two societies.

To better understand the differences between societies, it is essential to know who you are and where you come from!


The knowledge used to understand the differences in cultural values and behaviors comes from the empirical study by Professor Geert Hofstede and the book 7 Mental Images written by Huib Wursten, who combined these different values.

Professor Dr. Geert Hofstede (Hofstede et al. 2010) carried out fundamental research into the dominant values of countries and the way in which they influence behavior in organizations.

Original data were based on an extensive IBM database for which, between 1967 and 1973, 116,000 questionnaires were used in 72 countries and 20 languages. The results were validated against about 40 cross-cultural studies from various disciplines. Analyzing his data, Hofstede found four value clusters (or “dimensions”) to be the most fundamental in understanding and explaining the differences in answers to single questions. He measured the differences and calculated scores for 56 countries on these four dimensions. Later research partly done by others has extended this to 85 countries and six dimensions. The combined scores for each country explain variations in the behavior of people and organizations. In addition, the scores indicate the relative differences between cultures.

The first four dimensions of national culture identified by Hofstede are:

  • Power Distance (PDI),
  • Individualism/Collectivism (IDV),
  • Masculinity/Femininity (MAS),
  • Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI)

Huib Wursten (Wursten 2019) developed a tool describing the effects of combining the four single dimensions and reducing the complexity. This led to 6 culture clusters (mental images) that can be more easily referred to, in order to understand cultural differences in practical terms.

Six mental images of society©

Each mental image represents a cluster of countries with specific characteristics (scores).

* The contest model (`winner takes all’) Competitive Anglo-Saxon cultures with low power distance, high individualism and masculinity, and low scores on uncertainty avoidance. Examples: Australia, New Zealand, UK, and USA.

* The network model (consensus) Highly individualistic, `feminine’ societies with low power distance like Scandinavia and the Netherlands. Everyone is involved in decision-making.

* The organization as a family (loyalty and hierarchy). Found in societies that score high on power distance and Collectivism and have powerful in-groups and paternalistic leaders. Examples: China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Singapore.

* The pyramidal organization (loyalty, hierarchy, and implicit order) is found in collective societies with large power distance and uncertainty avoidance. Examples: much of Latin America (especially Brazil), Greece, Portugal, Russia, and Thailand.

* The solar system (hierarchy and an impersonal bureaucracy). Similar to the pyramid structure, but with greater individualism. Examples: Belgium, France, Northern Italy, Spain and French-speaking Switzerland.

* The well-oiled machine (order) Found in societies with low power distance and high uncertainty avoidance, carefully balanced procedures and rules, and not much acceptance of hierarchy. Examples: Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, and German-speaking Switzerland.


Note: In the book 7 Mental Images, Japan is the 7th mental image as a stand-alone cluster as no other country has the same combination of dimensions.

The differences between India and the Netherlands.

In the book “7 Mental Images ” (Wursten2020), India is described as The organization as a Family while the Netherlands is described as the ‘Network System’.


PDI     38

IDV     80

MAS   14

UAI    53


PDI     77

IDV     48

MAS   56

UAI    40


The images above show considerable differences between India and the Netherlands regarding Power-distance (PDI), Individual/Collectivist (IND) and Masculinity/Femininity (MAS) dimensions.

With this knowledge in mind I would like to share with you my experiences in Indian society as a football coach for the Indian National Team.



Being a coach in India or the Netherlands is a big difference. In India, players and staff expect you to be the leader who takes all the decisions and has all the answers. No discussions.

In the Netherlands, coaches expect players to come to you when they have questions or suggestions.

We say: “The door is always open”. For example, players will give their opinions during training sessions when they don’t agree with certain situations or behavior by players or the coach.

Coaching in the Netherlands is also involving the player in ‘solving’ certain situations during sessions.

The coach can ask you what you think the solution should be in a specific tactical situation on the field or why you made that decision at that time. Then, the players will give their responses—discussions for the team’s development.

My vision about coaching football is that players’ involvement in how we want the team to play will help the team to improve faster and with higher quality, i.e., better communication between players on the pitch. I realize that this vision has developed in the Netherlands, where hierarchy is not very strong, and speaking up is learned at a very young age.

In India, it is the opposite.

These differences are shown in the images above and scores on the dimension PDI: Power Distance.

Realizing the differences between the two countries, I chose to implement my coaching style with the Indian national team as I believed in the strength of better communication and understanding.

Another vital leadership aspect for Dutch coaches/managers going abroad and highly underestimated is related to ‘loss of face.’ In the Netherlands, correcting players in front of the group or having strong discussions is not a big problem. It is seen as helpful for the development of the player or team (Teambuilding). It’s related to a high score on the Individual dimension of Hofstede.

In India, with a low score on the Individual dimension meaning Collectivism in general, the coach strives for harmony and will choose his words carefully. No loss of face as loyalty plays an important role.

Dutch people abroad are often seen as very direct or even rude in their approach, not realizing the significant impact of their actions. Throughout the years, I have seen enough examples of coaches being fired and up today not realizing that they made the big mistake of insulting people, often in higher positions such as a President or owner of a club. Just behaving or acting the way you are used to back home clearly shows a lack of understanding and respect for the people you are working with abroad.

Plan of action

First, I decided to only work with local staff members as I wanted to leave a legacy for them in the years ahead.

In the office in New Delhi, I first met with my assistant coach, a former national team player and interim head coach of the national team. I explained to him my vision of how I want to play with the team and how to coach the players. He is from Goa, a small state in the south of India famous for its beautiful white beaches and holiday resorts. I built a great relationship with him and still consider him a friend, although he still calls me Mister Wim! Even after all these years (from 2012) it feels strange to me, but I understand where it comes from. Dutch people are not used to hierarchy in their society compared to India, where it is quite strong and accepted.

In those first days at the office, I also met with my team manager, a young enthusiast former professional player originally from Bengaluru, a big city in Karnataka, in the south of India. Every time I spoke to him, he stood up straight like a military, saying ‘yes Sir’ after every sentence.

After a few days, I managed to make him a little more relaxed. I also build an excellent relationship with him. I met his family, father, mother, and close relatives. Two years later, after I left India, I returned to Bengaluru as I was invited to his wedding. During my time as a coach, he spoke about and explained the process of his Hindu family finding a woman for him in his hometown he could marry. He was very open about it, and every time he flew back home, he told me he would meet a few women to see if the right one was there for him.

The wedding was a wonderful experience. My wife and I were treated as high-profile guests for this 3-day wedding. Ever since, I have stayed in touch with him and his family. In 2019 because of work, I revisited them.

My other staff members send me messages yearly around Christmas and New Year.

Relationships in India are for life.

In the office, I also organized a meeting with the captain of the national team, a well-accepted, highly appreciated, and experienced player, the top striker who, at that time, was playing for Sporting Lisbon in Portugal. He proved to be a big help for me in teambuilding on the training pitch.

After a few weeks of preparation, a training camp was planned in a great sporting facility south of New Delhi. We had five weeks to prepare for a friendly international tournament in Delhi: The Neru Cup.

First, all staff members were invited to have a few meetings about the program and management of players and staff. Then, I informed them about my vision of leadership, so everyone was aware of the differences to be expected.

Then I explained to the technical staff members, my assistant coach, goalkeeper coach, and fitness coach my coaching style and how I wanted to implement it for the players, particularly on the pitch.

The day after all players assembled and in the first meeting, I explained what to expect from the staff and me, the style of play, the coaching style, and the changes they could expect.

Daily life.

Being appointed National Team Coach of the Indian football team doesn’t mean you are only dealing with football matters on the pitch. You also become part of daily life in India, which is a big difference compared to the Netherlands. You cannot learn everything from a book. You have to experience and literally feel the difference in daily life.

Early mornings I read the Times of India to understand what was happening in this vast country daily.

It would be easy to say one understands everything immediately, it simply is not, but the knowledge and awareness about the existing differences I gained before travelling made me much more alert and accessible to them. Nearly everything you see around you is different compared to what you have ever experienced before.

As a National Team Coach, you are not working with your players daily compared to a coach at a professional club. Therefore, there are only a few moments a year where you have the opportunity to work with the national team.

FIFA windows are planned for International competitive and friendly matches. Also, through AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and SAFF (South Asian Football Federation), the national teams’ matches and tournaments are organized.

On days not working with the national team, during the week, I was in the office of the AIFF (All India Football Federation) in Delhi. On weekends, I travelled to the various stadiums around India to watch my players perform for their respective teams. I have seen all corners of India through my work but also made some trips to lovely places around the country. Every day I met different people and engaged with them. People like to know where you are from when you travel or stay overnight in a hotel in big cities like Mumbai, Calcutta, Delhi, and Bangalore. When asked about aspects of daily life in India, I learned a lot from my staff members.

Once I heard someone say the phrase: “Adapt or die”…  I know that’s a bit harsh and should not be taken literally, but the message is clear.

Once you blend in, life becomes much easier.

On the pitch

The first training session is vital as a first attempt to start creating the style of football with the players and staff.

In preparation for the first team meeting, I had a special meeting with my team captain and my assistant coach about the coaching style and the implementation for the team. I explained the exact meaning and how I wanted him to help me on the ground with the players. His experience playing for a Portuguese club in Europe helped me a lot as he was used to different styles of play and coaching.

The respect for him by the other players was immense. Hierarchy is clearly defined.

I will never forget the first training session the day after briefing the players. In that briefing, I explained the most significant difference for them and the reason behind it: the coach will, at a specific moment during the session, stop the play and ask for your opinion in that particular moment and what could have been done differently. I told them I knew they were not used to that but would try. So be prepared! My captain repeated it in Hindi to make sure everyone understood.

So, the training started the following day.

At a certain moment during the tactical exercise, I stopped the play and asked a player what he thought of this particular situation and, if he could do it again, would he change something? Just as I mentioned the day before and enforced by the captain.

The player concerned appeared to be in shock, looked at the ground, and didn’t say a word. Then my captain stepped in and helped the player (and me) to solve this ‘awkward’ situation for the player.

He just shouted: “answer the coach! We discussed this yesterday, so what do you think?”

To make a long story short, I knew the players had to get used to this new situation. Still, only step by step they felt more comfortable with my approach and, after a couple of sessions, even started discussions amongst themselves in situations on the pitch (not with the coach, though…!). It helped communication between the players and me but most of all between the players themselves. And that is very convenient when they are out on the pitch during a football match as most decisions are made by themselves and not by the coach.

I also realized that when the players return to their respective clubs, the situation would be ‘back to normal “for them. But during my time in India working with the national team, I managed to install this specific coaching style with my Indian staff with the Dutch low hierarchy aspects opposite the higher hierarchy in India.

I prefer to call my leadership style in India a ‘Situational leadership– style. I was the boss/father figure for my staff and players during most of the day but could switch easily to

‘consensus/negotiation ‘style on the pitch with my players.

The Captain

My captain of the team in 2012 already had quite some status back then. Today, his status has grown to that of a real celebrity like a Bollywood star. He is now also the all-time top scorer of the Indian National Team.

The players of the team had and still have a huge respect for him. I have tried to use his status and strong influence in my attempt to implement the new coaching style with the players. His role was accepted by everyone in the team, staff included.

During press conferences for me it was no problem to compliment him on his performance and emphasize the importance of his leadership role for the team.

I even got to know and meet the former captain and top scorer of the national team and experienced the status he had in India already back then. He still is a very famous personality.

For the players the position of the captain has never been a problem. I’m sure this would not have been the same in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands people say ‘if your head sticks out above the ground level, it will be cut off’…there is a strong emphasis on equality amongst people.

The captain though, never tried to use his status to influence me for his own benefit. In my opinion because of his personality.


Changing a style of play knowing that the players at their clubs overall used another style of football is not easy, especially when you don’t have the players available every day. One of my tasks mentioned by the TD of India was changing the play style and searching for new young talent.

Analyzing the players’ potential made me believe that it was possible to change the style based on more possession, attacking driven with a solid defensive organization. This development was shown in recent years in world football.

After our five-week preparation, we played the tournament in Delhi with three other higher-ranked National teams. Eventually, we reached the final, playing against a very strong National team from Cameroon, and won the match after penalty series.

The quality of football was of a high level and the players showed they could play the style we wanted them to play. The joy after the final was incredible.


Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G.J., & Minkov, M. (2010). “Cultures and Organizations, Software of the Mind”, Third Revised Edition, McGrawHill 2010, ISBN 0-07-166418-1. ©Geert Hofstede B.V. quoted with permission

Wursten Huib. The 7 Mental Images of National Culture Leading and managing in a globalized word (2019) ISBN-10: 1687633347 ISBN-13: 978-1687633347

Could National Culture Influence Football Referees?

Could National Culture Influence Football Referees?

Huib Wursten, Public speaker, Author and Consultant


Paulo Finuras, Ph.D.



Football is the most popular sport on the planet. It contains tribal elements adorned by rituals that summon emotional aspects and ancestral elements associated with the evolution and interaction of human groups, including competition and cooperation. National culture, understood as the groups wise collective mental software is present in all societies and penetrates them in all areas so that the practice of this game cannot be, in different ways, immune to it or “cultural free”. In this article we propose to analyze the influence of cultural values both on the disciplinary aspect (total cards shown by referees in the games of various European Football Leagues) as well as the effective time played (ETP) that is, the one that results from the non-interruptions per action of the referee in response to situations that he interprets as being sanctioned (therefore the time required to mark a ball that comes out or a corner that is considered as playing).

Our research hypotheses are that the values of national cultures also influence both the number of cards shown and the effective playing time which means that effective playing time of a football match and the cards showing greatly varies according to cultural environment football leagues.

This should not, in fact, be a huge surprise because the human activities of interpreting the rules of the game and the use of the power instituted in the figure of the referee are not exempt from the unconscious influence of the cultural context of the referees’ origin.

In short, with this research we may claim that the cultural background of the origin of referees tends to promote inevitable distortions in the way they intervene in the game to exercise their regulatory power.


Individualism, National Culture, Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, Effective Playing Time, Total Cards Shown



Abstract 1

  1. Introduction: The Hofstede Model and the Culture shock: 3

1.1 The implications for relationship trainer and player. 4

  1. Objective. 6
  2. Methods. 6
  3. Hypothesis, Discussion  and Results. 7
  4. From moderate (*) to strong (**) significant correlations. 14

Conclusion. 19

1. Introduction: The Hofstede Model and the Culture shock:


In an interview ( 20-12-19) with newspaper Nice-Matin, OGC Nice and Danish international striker Kasper Dolberg complained about the style of refereeing in Ligue 1. Comparing with his experience in the Netherlands with his new environment, France, he said:

“You can’t even speak with them (the referees) here. In the Netherlands, you speak man to man, you can ask for an explanation when a decision seems strange. Here, you get a yellow card even without looking at them! I don’t know if they don’t like me or whether there is another reason, but it is crazy. I’ve understood that I should not even try to speak with them.”

It is a clear example of that cultural differences can cause in playing soccer in different cultural value systems. Even if the countries are not very far away.

The social scientist Geert Hofstede proposes and defines culture as “a collective mental program of the human mind that characterizes and distinguishes one group or category from another”. In other words, culture is understood as a system of patterns and meanings about how to think, feel and act on common existential issues: how to deal: 1). with hierarchy; 2) the balance between the Individual and group loyalty; 3) the direction of motivation: competition or consensus seeking; and (4) the need to control uncertainty.

In its proposal, national culture, seen as mental software, is composed of ‘layers’. At its core are the values, understood as ‘general preferences for one state of affairs in relation to another, to which very strong[1] emotions and feelings are associated’.

The first three layers consist of symbols, heroes and rituals and are the most permeable to change and the most visible. The latter (values) is not visible mainly to a foreigner.  The dimensions, which are analytical constructions, reveal the meaning (high or low) and the intensity (strong or weak) in the way societies solve the four existential issues listed above. This is where the variations in values arise in the understanding of G. Hofstede (see next figure).

Figure 1

National Culture as a central tendency

The model based on the seminal study known today as the “IBM Study” has since been reinforced by the outcomes of repeat research, (Hofstede, 2010). The underlying idea is that when we compare the distribution of values between populations the rule of large numbers allows to find a central trend (what most people do most of the time) that can be compared to other national distributions.

Fig. 2

The first 4 Dimensions of the original Hofstede Model


Source: Authors adaptation from Hofstede, 2010

This model allows to anticipate some behaviors as more likely (because statistically predictable), from the comparison of central trends between national cultures. Let us look further as an example to the four dimensions and same of the characteristics more likely to happen in the relation between coach and players:

1.1 The implications for relationship trainer and player.


Low…………………. Power Distance ………………..High


Coaches expect/accept that players to initiate communication Players tend to wait until the Coach begins to communicate.
Players can/should find their own way, show initiative. Players know that coaching determines the direction.
Players can spontaneously open their mouths Players wait to speak until they are asked or invited to do
Players can ccontradict if they have different opinions Players in general never contradict the Coach.






High IDV



Coach nor player should lose face Confrontation can be useful
Great loyalty to “in” group.

Other rules for outsiders.

Face loss is not that important.
Harmony must remain Coaches are impartial
Of coaches is accepted that they are traits based on background or recommendation of important person.  

The same rules for everyone


Consensus Masculinity Competitive


Players are supposed to be modest. Stars are allowed to profile and expect other treatment.
Coaches should avoid to publicly praise good players too much. Coaches can praise good players publicly.
Be critical to each other = keep each other sharp.

Help each other

Criticizing = negativism

Competition between colleagues is tolerated

If you come up with your head above ground level… you will pay the consequences Players very visible.


Low/Weak Uncertainty Avoidance High/Strong


Coaches don’t lose credibility right away when they say, “I don’t Know” Coaches are expected to have all the answers.
Players are rewarded for flexible solutions in the field and for creativity. Players are rewarded for precise follow-up of tactical clues.
Coaches are expected to suppress or control showing emotions during the game. Coaches may be emotional in public and private
Coaches interpret discord as potentially stimulating. Coaches see discord as personal disloyalty.
Coaches accept in principle input from all involved. Coaches see themselves as experts who can learn nothing more from others.


2. Objective

Following cross-cultural psychology Hofstede Model, we postulate that cultural values matters in referees’ preferences regarding the tendency to show more or less cards in football games (i.e., exercise sanctioning power) and in the impact, as consequence, on final effective playing time.

3. Methods

We present a study of original data to assess the amount of yellow and red cards showing and the effective playing time in several European football leagues with statistical and analytical methods including correlations between cultural values and those statistics (EPT, TCS). All the statists were kindle provide by the CIES Football Observatory, 2018

We have specific statistics of Red Cards Shown (RCS) from 25 football leagues in 2016-2017 and yellow and red cards from 2018-2019 and 2019 and 2019-2020 (until 17/02/2020) including statistics from the Effective Playing Time.

Our research hypothesis is that the dimensions characteristics from the cultural environment of the matches could influence referees in showing more or less cards and therefore the effective playing time could be reduced.

4. Hypothesis, Discussion  and Results

In addition to the actual time played we will analyze the total cards shown, red cards and yellow cards in 25, 31 and 73 leagues around the world,

We will consider several hypothesis, namely:

H1: In cultures with a higher PDI, referees show more cards in general (yellow and red)

H2: In cultures with higher PDI referees show more red cards than in cultures with lower PDI

H3: In cultures with a higher UAI, referees show more cards in general (yellow and red)

H4: The cultural dimensions PDI, IDV and UAI influence the effective playing time

H5. In cultures of strong uncertainty avoidance, the referees try to control the game by displaying yellow and red cards

The findings are consistent with the Hofstede Model theory presented here revealing great discrepancies according to the cultural background environment of the football leagues.

Our research suggest that referees are unconsciously influenced by Power Distance, Individualism, and Uncertainty Avoidance values where the match occur showing more or less cards and intervening and interrupting more or less the matches.

In conclusion, our data suggest that referees are more likely to demonstrate the power in high power distance societies, special with stronger uncertainty avoidance.

Fig. 3

Where Refs brandish yellow and red most

Source: CIES Football Observatory, 2018

Graphic 1

Source: Author’s research & data from CIES Football Observatory, 2018


Table 1

Correlations Average Red Cards Shown in 2016-2017 for 25 European Leagues



Red Cards


Pearson Correlation 1 ,504* -,415* ,263 ,761**
Sig. (2 tails)   ,010 ,039 ,204 ,000
N 25 25 25 25 25
PDI Pearson Correlation ,504* 1 -,637** ,230 ,574**
Sig. (2 tails) ,010   ,000 ,184 ,000
N 25 35 35 35 35
IDV Pearson Correlation -,415* -,637** 1 ,000 -,573**
Sig. (2 tails) ,039 ,000   1,000 ,000
N 25 35 35 35 35
MAS Pearson Correlation ,263 ,230 ,000 1 ,177
Sig. (2 tails) ,204 ,184 1,000   ,309
N 25 35 35 35 35
UAI Pearson Correlation ,761** ,574** -,573** ,177 1
Sig. (2 tails) ,000 ,000 ,000 ,309  
N 25 35 35 35 35
*. The correlation is significant at level 0.05 (1 tail).
**. The correlation is significant at level 0.01 (2 tails).

Graphic 2 – RED CARDS & PDI

Source: Author’s research based on data from CIES Football Observatory, 2018

Graphic 3 – RED CARDS & IDV

Source: Author’s research based on data from CIES Football Observatory, 2018

Graphic 4 – RED CARDS & UAI

Source: Author’s research based on data from CIES Football Observatory, 2018

Red Cards, Yellow Cards & Effective Playing Time in 2018-2019

Table N.º 2

Correlations TCS, EPT YC, Y2CRC & Cultural Values – 2018-2019

Total Cards Shown


Pearson Corr. 1 -,560** ,996** ,826** ,370* ,377* -,557** ,623** ,314
Sig. (2 tails) ,003 ,000 ,000 ,029 ,026 ,001 ,000 ,066
N 35 26 35 35 35 35 35 35 35
Effective Playing Time


Pearson Corr -,560** 1 -,581** -,380 ,037 -,151 ,475* -,537** -,370
Sig. (2 tails) ,003 ,002 ,055 ,856 ,463 ,014 ,005 ,063
N 26 26 26 26 26 26 26 26 26
Yellow Cards


Pearson Corr ,996** -,581** 1 ,782** ,332 ,364* -,539** ,602** ,326
Sig. (2 tails) ,000 ,002 ,000 ,051 ,032 ,001 ,000 ,056
N 35 26 35 35 35 35 35 35 35
Second Yellow Card


Pearson Corr ,826** -,380 ,782** 1 ,258 ,419* -,616** ,606** ,194
Sig. (2 tails) ,000 ,055 ,000 ,134 ,012 ,000 ,000 ,265
N 35 26 35 35 35 35 35 35 35
Red Cards


Pearson Corr ,370* ,037 ,332 ,258 1 ,069 -,092 ,346* ,032
Sig. (2 tails) ,029 ,856 ,051 ,134 ,696 ,597 ,041 ,857
N 35 26 35 35 35 35 35 35 35
PDI Pearson Corr ,377* -,151 ,364* ,419* ,069 1 -,637** ,574** ,230
Sig. (2 tails) ,026 ,463 ,032 ,012 ,696 ,000 ,000 ,184
N 35 26 35 35 35 35 35 35 35
IDV Pearson Corr -,557** ,475* -,539** -,616** -,092 -,637** 1 -,573** ,000
Sig. (2 tails) ,001 ,014 ,001 ,000 ,597 ,000 ,000 1,000
N 35 26 35 35 35 35 35 35 35


Pearson Corr ,623** -,537** ,602** ,606** ,346* ,574** -,573** 1 ,177
Sig. (2 tails) ,000 ,005 ,000 ,000 ,041 ,000 ,000 ,309
N 35 26 35 35 35 35 35 35 35
MAS Pearson Corr ,314 -,370 ,326 ,194 ,032 ,230 ,000 ,177 1
Sig. (2 tails) ,066 ,063 ,056 ,265 ,857 ,184 1,000 ,309
N 35 26 35 35 35 35 35 35 35
*. The correlation is significant at level 0.01 (2 tails).

           Source: Author’s research based on data from CIES Football Observatory, 2018 and

Hofstede Database


Graphic 5 – PDI & Effective Playing Time

Graphic  6 – IDV & Effective Playing Time 2018-2019

Graphic N.º 7 – UAI & Effective Playing Time 2018-2019

Source: Author’s research based on data from CIES Football Observatory, 2018 and Hofstede Database

Graphic 8 – PDI & Total Cards 2018-2019

Graphic 9 – IDV & Total Cards 2018-2019

Graphic 10 – UAI & Yellow Cards 2018-2019

Source: Author’s research based on data from CIES Football Observatory, 2018


5. From moderate (*) to strong (**) significant correlations


There is a strong negative association between Effective Playing Time and

  • Total cards shown (r = -, 560 n= 26 football leagues)
  • Uncertainty Avoidance (r= .537 n= 26 football leagues)

There is a moderate positive association between

Effective Playing Time (EPT) and

  • Individualism – IDV – (r= 475, n = 26 football leagues) and

There is also a moderate positive association between Total Cards and

  • PDI (r=.377 n= 35 football leagues)
  • UAI (r= .623 n= 35 football leagues)

There is a negative and strong correlation between Total Cards Shown and

  • IDV (r=.557 n= 35 football leagues)

There is a positive and strong correlation between Total Cards Shown and

  • UAI (r=.623 n= 35 football leagues)


Red Cards & Yellow Cards 2018-2019

Worldwide -73 National Leagues

Table N.º3

Association Between National Cultures and Total Cards Shown, Red Cards & Yellow Cards

2019-2020 for 73 Countries/Football Leagues Worldwide


TCS Pearson Correlation 1 ,752** ,997** ,294* -,453** ,524** -,018
Sig. (2 tails) ,000 ,000 ,012 ,000 ,000 ,880
N 73 73 73 73 73 73 73
RC Pearson Correlation ,752** 1 ,701** ,298* -,480** ,470** -,047
Sig. (2 tails) ,000 ,000 ,011 ,000 ,000 ,693
N 73 73 73 73 73 73 73
YC Pearson Correlation ,997** ,701** 1 ,285* -,436** ,515** -,014
Sig. (2 tails) ,000 ,000 ,015 ,000 ,000 ,906
N 73 73 73 73 73 73 73
PDI Pearson Correlation ,294* ,298* ,285* 1 -,704** ,310** ,129
Sig. (2 tails) ,012 ,011 ,015 ,000 ,008 ,278
N 73 73 73 73 73 73 73
IDV Pearson Correlation -,453** -,480** -,436** -,704** 1 -,330** ,104
Sig. (2 tails) ,000 ,000 ,000 ,000 ,004 ,381
N 73 73 73 73 73 73 73
UAI Pearson Correlation ,524** ,470** ,515** ,310** -,330** 1 -,060
Sig. (2 tails) ,000 ,000 ,000 ,008 ,004 ,612
N 73 73 73 73 73 73 73
MAS Pearson Correlation -,018 -,047 -,014 ,129 ,104 -,060 1
Sig. (2 tails) ,880 ,693 ,906 ,278 ,381 ,612
N 73 73 73 73 73 73 73
**. Correlation is significant at level 0.01 (2 tails).
*. Correlation is significant at level 0.05 (2 tails).

Source: Author’s research based on data from CIES Football Observatory, 2018 and Hofstede Database

Graphic 11


Source: Author’s research based on data from CIES Football Observatory, 2018 and Hofstede Database

Graphic 12


Source: Author’s research based on data from CIES Football Observatory, 2018 and Hofstede Database

Graphic 13

Yellow Cards Shown associated whit PDI

Source: Author’s research based on data from CIES Football Observatory, 2018 and Hofstede Database

Graphic 14


Source: Author’s research based on data from CIES Football Observatory, 2018 and Hofstede Database

Graphic 15


Source: Author’s research based on data from CIES Football Observatory, 2018 and Hofstede Database

Graphic 16


Source: Author’s research based on data from CIES Football Observatory, 2018 and Hofstede Database

Graphic 17


Source: Author’s research based on data from CIES Football Observatory, 2018 and Hofstede Database

Graphic 18


Source: Author’s research based on data from CIES Football Observatory, 2018 and Hofstede Database

Graphic 19


Source: Author’s research based on data from CIES Football Observatory, 2018 and Hofstede Database


Football is a universally appreciated and practiced game and is based on relatively simple and equal rules wherever the game is played. The application of the rules resulting from its interpretation is however not exactly the same in all games and in all cultural contexts where the game is played.

Although the football teams of the top leagues in each country are increasingly composed of players from diverse cultures, in general the refereeing teams are composed of individuals from that specific league.

This is of course different in international games It is known that when a group (i.e., more than 3 people) moves from one cultural context to another, it carries with it the central tendency of the national culture of origin, that is, the characteristics of the mental software of their country and, probably, this can make oneself feel, albeit unconsciously, in the way the referees interpret what is happening in the field and if this is considered worthy of interruption and disciplinary sanction.

What the data seems to suggest is that, unconsciously, there is a sharp and persistent tendency for refereeing teams from cultures with mental software characterized by high power distance and a strong need for control, to show more cards.

Our suggestion is that the best way to cope with this reality is to make referees and players  aware of it. As it has long been known that it is part of cockpit resource management in aviation to train crew members for more direct communication that allows co-pilots, in particular, to be able to make negative criticisms in a constructive sense to captains, and not to hesitate to call attention to errors or even correcting them.

It might be a good idea to integrate this also in the training of soccer referees and coaches a set of knowledge about cultures as mental software’s that work unconsciously on individuals in order to gain awareness of their characteristics and, eventually, adopt other behaviors that reduce not only the number of cards shown in football matches, but also allow, in this way, to increase the effective playing time.

To think that the referees, coaches and players will be able to improve behavior themselves is a mistake. Why? Because the truth is that “the fish don’t know that they live in the sea”.


CIES Football Observatory, 2018

Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G.J., & Minkov, M. (2010). “Cultures and Organizations, Software of the Mind”, Third Revised Edition, McGrawHill 2010, ISBN 0-07-166418-1. ©Geert Hofstede B.V. quoted with permission

Wursten Huib. The 7 Mental Images of National Culture Leading and managing in a globalized word (2019) ISBN-10: 1687633347 ISBN-13: 978-1687633347

[1] In fact, they are so strong that there are people who fight and give their lives for them.

Invisible cultural differences in Sports How do we study – How do we see the invisible cultural values?

Invisible cultural differences in Sports How do we study – How do we see the invisible cultural values?

Associate Prof.Dr. Mikael Søndergaard, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University


A picture sometimes tells more than a thousand words!

Do you see the cultural aspects in the picture of Tour de France winner Vingegaard waiting for his rival Pogacar?

Does the picture reflect invisible cultural differences?

An episode during the Tour de France 2022 was used in the New York Times to approach the story of the winner Jonas Vingegaard from Denmark showing this picture. (Mather, 2022)  It is a puzzle why this picture was selected rather than showing the final victory. The article stressed the sportsmanship demonstrated by Vingegaard

There had been two moments of drama on the descent before the big climb as Pogacar, looking for any opening, and Vingegaard, watching his every move, zipped downhill together. But, first, Vingegaard, negotiating a gravelly road, wobbled and nearly fell,  one foot popping out of his pedals to keep his balance.

A moment later, Pogacar did fall, but he immediately climbed back on his bike, seemingly not injured too much. Vingegaard slowed to allow him to catch up, a show of sportsmanship acknowledged by a touch of hands between the rivals when Pogacar reached him again. (Mather, 2022)

The invisible aspect of cultural differences is shown in two main perspectives. First, the US New York Times readers have a cultural software that produces a mental image that the winners take all in continuous competition. The journalist has selected the surprise that the leading Vingegaard does not take all but waits for his opponent to catch up. Therefore, this indicates a curiously interestingly different way of understanding competition. Second, Vingegaard from Denmark and Pogacar from Slovenia are socialized into functioning well in societies with low degrees of “masculine” values. For them, the cultural software of the mind tells them you win but want to race again, so you do not destroy your opponent/ you want to keep your opponent safe to race you again.

Vingegaard explained that he expected to race many more times against Pogacar in the future and intended to have a good competitive climate with fair racing. Pogacar understood  Vingegaard perfectly, illustrated by his gesture of the hand. There was a tacit consensus between the two competitors. Intuitively, on their own, they acted intending to have a good working climate in years to come. The act of sportsmanship was also routed in invisible cultural similarities. Several interactions between Pogacar and Vingegaard during the Tour de France support this interpretation. Cultural differences interplay with other not culturally related factors. For readers with a masculine mindset, this situation was interestingly unexpected.

By using constructs such as values and dimensions of cultural differences between countries, we explain parts of individual behavior from a framework at the social level. Indivisible aspects of cultural differences in telling and acting in professional sports using two levels of analysis on qualitative data. The invisible cultural difference becomes visible in the process of combining levels of analysis.

Quantitative data show the importance of cultural diversity in professional teams is demonstrated in studies. Several studies have empirically addressed the relationship between cultural diversity and team performance.(Stahl, Maznevski, Voigt, & Jonsen, 2010) The number of nationalities of team members affects performance. The role of cultural diversity in teams is a double-edged sword.

Apart from these points of agreement, the results seem mixed. For illustration, one large study across comparable countries over a period finds that nationality impacts team performance in professional sports teams. (Maderer, Holtbrügge, & Schuster, 2014) A quantitive case study in Germany supports this finding.  (Brandes, Franck, & Theiler, 2009)

On the other hand, if one compares teams in the same international competition beyond national borders, results from a study on the impact on team performance from the UEFA Champions League (2003–2012)  indicate that more heterogeneous teams outperform less diverse ones. (Ingersoll, Malesky, & Saiegh, 2017)

The results of mixed results and the double-edged sword nature of cultural diversity are thus supported in sports team research as well, But also that the influence of cultural difference may vary depending on levels of analysis as this finding may illustrate contrasting results from studies on teams within and with teams across national borders.

Clearly, cultural differences have an invisible hand in team performance. How to manage it and use it to improve performance? How do we make the hidden aspects of cultural differences in sports teams visible? We will focus on the choices of what methodology considerations and tools to use.

Methods of seeing and telling the invisible cultural differences in professional sports teams

Humans have observed and talked about cultural differences forever. Since the cave age, we have come a long way in developing study methods and reporting on cultural differences. Plato’s cave analogy(Macintosh, 2012) offers the basics of the dynamics of observing the other’s “truth” and how challenging it is to report on it. The Plato caves are often used to illustrate the complexities of intercultural sensitivity. (Lowe, 2002)

Both examples of the introduction illustrate ways of seeing the invisible cultural sides of professional sports as a social phenomenon in its context. These two examples are very different ways of seeing hidden aspects of cultural differences. The qualitative and quantitative analysis required interpretation, allowing for factors other than culture to be part of the explanation. Understood in this way, cultural differences are only part of other factors that may explain the situations I used as examples in the introduction.

Cultural differences are part of a context in different ways. Visible cultural differences are, for example, institutions, e.g., national federations, that influence the members of the sports teams and their organizations in important ways. To study the invisible aspects of culture, we need to use a special case research methodology that allows us to explore invisible cultural differences in their setting, without interference from the observer or the research design, such as in a lab setting.

The choice and application of methods are mainly 1: the data collection and 2. The levels of analysis issue in the analysis of the data as we make the invisible cultural difference visible by combining levels of analysis.

How to isolate invisible cultural differences.

Suppose we accept that values related to culture are amongst other influencers of behavior and attitude. In that case, we need to find a way to illustrate the relationship between cultural differences and the social phenomenon that we seek to understand or explain. The search for cultural differences is a search where we take away other possible explanatory factors in our attempt to understand. Within-group variation can be larger than group variations, e.g., elite sports teams vary significantly from spare time teams within the same sport and country. Therefore, we need to compare top professional teams of the same sport across countries, i.e., sports teams that are as much alike as possible apart from the country of origin.

Sampling of data

In the selection data, equivalence is a primary concern of cultural studies. Here is a recent example showing current concerns regarding equivalence. (Fischer, Karl, & Luczak-Roesch, 2022) Berry’s contribution to the field is to explain the importance of functional equivalence in cross-cultural research. (Berry, 1969, 1989) A narrow, precise sampling has clear advantages. A broader sampling is comparatively less fruitful. Representative samples are the least productive, per se.

Professional sports teams competing internationally are a useful social group for studying groups across cultures using functional equivalence. Controlling factors are important and high in number as they do the same, follow the same rules, etc. More insights on the influence of invisible dimensions of cultural differences may result from further development in the usage of equivalence when studying professional sports teams.

Selection of data sources

Opportunistic and convenience sampling, e.g., using consulting clients as research sites, require several controls and transparent checks vis a vis equivalence. On the other hand, purposive sampling respecting equivalence may have the challenge of access to data.

The importance of equivalence is valid both for primary data and secondary data. Primary data requires greater access to sites. Interview notes, transcripts, recordings, notes from field observations, and reflective data from individual (diaries) internal records are primary data. In contrast, publicly available are secondary data. Annual reports, articles, books, and transcripts of public meetings, e.g., court cases, social media, and library databases, are secondary sources of information(Taylor & Søndergaard, 2017). Some of the articles mentioned in the introduction use both primary and secondary quantitative data.

An estimate of the quality of the source is a concern in both types of data in terms of how well positioned the source is concerning the information under study.

If transparency is respected, it would be fine to select a football coach who has worked in the same position in different national leagues with the same level of direct exposure to the players if this person’s personal information is compared with other independent sources of information, such as an assistant or relevant secondary data. The next step then becomes the one of accessing the data.

Access to data

Once the selection is made, accessing the data involves choices that impact the study. These choices may constrain the analysis and the content of the reporting. In the case of research methodology, this is called gatekeeper management. The relationship with the gatekeeper requires consideration as the researcher can become highly dependent on a gatekeeper. Unforeseen events such as job mobility and sickness may impact the access even with initial success(Taylor & Søndergaard, 2017)

An effective way to get to the source of data is through recommendations. Snowballing is a version of this type of access once you specify the qualities of the data source. Another choice here is the degree of involvement of the researcher. Here is the choice of covert or open entry and data collection. The more intimate the insights need, the greater the time the case research will need to be present in the organizational context. Another important consideration is confidentiality issues and handling expectations to maintain a public image. Textbook authors on case research methodology stress that it is important to be conscious of the possible steps in the entry process that must be managed. (Taylor & Søndergaard, 2017)

In short, the invisible aspect of cultural differences surfaces in professional sports teams in the process of data selection and data access important to make the secret of cross-cultural research happen in the combination of levels of analysis maintaining the unit of analysis, i.e., what we are interested in understanding.

We assume that invisible cultural differences are part of many factors to account for differences between comparable sports teams. We also believe that the relationship between the cultural contexts and what we study needs to be respected. We approach the subject as a case study defined as

A case study is an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within a real-life context where the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident, and multiple sources of evidence are used. (Yin, 1984)

The real-life contexts are social and cultural contexts at one level of analysis with sports teams and the individual behavior of team members on different levels of analysis.

Studying Professional Sports Teams as Social Phenomena in Cultural Contexts

To simplify the many cultural country contexts pointing to the professional work organizations, country cluster studies group countries a reduced number of countries keeping the important differences in respect to work organizations in which professional sports teams are part. (Ronen & Shenkar, 1985, 2013) From the cultural context, it is possible to formulate questions to the data set of importance to the hypnotized invisible cultural differences. For example, (Wursten, 2019a) developed a model of country clusters with similar values indicated as “mental images,” helping to clarify the difference of what is seen as important in social phenomena such as sports teams.

The country clusters are based on the empirical research by Geert Hofstede and are shown below.

⇙ ⇘

Professional Sports Team

Figure Social phenomenon in cultural contexts

Wursten has demonstrated its usefulness in explaining differences between other social phenomena. (Jacobs & Wursten, 2019; Wursten, 2019b, 2020a, 2020b)

Both these frameworks, Hofstede and Wursten, are recommended for their usefulness in the systematic research into Cultural differences


I want to conclude by citing one of the fathers of the research method. Robert Yin said

“check your data and tell a good story.”

A participant of a Ph.D./junior faculty workshop at Sandberg Manor, August 1989, where we in Europe first met Robert Yin, reminded me about this advice which helped the participant in his career. (Jon, 2022) Yin’s words are, in a nutshell, the point I have been trying to make.

Here several points to check our data have been dealt with. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix in checking your data regarding a case study of invisible aspects of cultural differences.


Berry, J. W. (1969). On cross-cultural comparability. International journal of Psychology, 4(2), 119-128.

Berry, J. W. (1989). Imposed etics—emics—derived etics: The operationalization of a compelling idea. International journal of Psychology, 24(6), 721-735.

Brandes, L., Franck, E., & Theiler, P. (2009). The effect from national diversity on team production—Empirical evidence from the sports industry. Schmalenbach Business Review, 61(2), 225-246.

Fischer, R., Karl, J. A., & Luczak-Roesch, M. (2022). Why equivalence and invariance are both different and essential for scientific studies of culture: A discussion of mapping processes and theoretical implications. PsyArXiv. September, 3.

Ingersoll, K., Malesky, E., & Saiegh, S. M. (2017). Heterogeneity and team performance: Evaluating the effect of cultural diversity in the world’s top soccer league. Journal of Sports Analytics, 3(2), 67-92.

Jacobs, C., & Wursten, H. (2019). The Relationship between Doctor and Patient. An Intercultural Comparison. Journal of Intercultural Management and Ethics, 2(1), 35-43.

Jon, P. (2022, 27th of August ). [Minder fra Sandbjerg].

Lowe, S. (2002). The cultural shadows of cross cultural research: images of culture. Culture and Organization, 8(1), 21-34.

Macintosh, D. (2012). Plato: a theory of forms. Philosophy Now, 90, 6-7.

Maderer, D., Holtbrügge, D., & Schuster, T. (2014). Professional football squads as multicultural teams: Cultural diversity, intercultural experience, and team performance. International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, 14(2), 215-238.

Mather, V. (2022, July 22). Jonas Vingegaard All but Clinches Tour de France With Win in Pyrenees. A Danish rider looking to defend his lead instead widens it, effetively finishing off his biggest rival with only days to go. New York Times.

Ronen, S., & Shenkar, O. (1985). Clustering countries on attitudinal dimensions: A review and synthesis. Academy of management Review, 10(3), 435-454.

Ronen, S., & Shenkar, O. (2013). Mapping world cultures: Cluster formation, sources and implications. Journal of international business studies, 44(9), 867-897.

Stahl, G. K., Maznevski, M. L., Voigt, A., & Jonsen, K. (2010). Unraveling the effects of cultural diversity in teams: A meta-analysis of research on multicultural work groups. Journal of international business studies, 41(4), 690-709.

Taylor, M. L., & Søndergaard, M. (2017). Unraveling the mysteries of case study research: a guide for business and management students. Cheltenham, UK ; Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Wursten, H. (2019a). The 7 mental images of national culture: Leading and managing in a globalized world: Amazon Books.

Wursten, H. (2019b). Democracy and the Need for Autonomy. Journal of Intercultural Management and Ethics, 2(3), 25-32.

Wursten, H. (2020a). Central and Eastern Europe in a Cultural Perspective. In Understanding National Culture and Ethics in Organizations (pp. 47-62): Emerald Publishing Limited.

Wursten, H. (2020b). There Is a System in the Madness. The 7 Mental Images of National Culture and the Corona Virus. Journal of Intercultural Management and Ethics, 3(1), 7-17.

Yin, R. K. (1984). Case Study Research: Design and Methods, . Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

The Impact Of Culture On Sports Coaching

The Impact Of Culture On Sports Coaching

Huib Wursten. Author and consultant 


Professional sports teams reflect globalization. You can for instance see that in soccer teams players of up to 11 nationalities are on the pitch.

There is a growing interest among coaches in understanding how to “manage” this diversity.

In this article, the emphasis is on a very important element in understanding human behaviors: culture. In addition to the general human traits that are valid worldwide and distinguish what characterizes us as an individual, there is something that makes the values of culture and culture different. These values” steer” the educational process and influence our preferences in dealing with people, organizations, and Institutions

The influence of these preferences is visible in the Sports world when integrating players from other cultures.

In his paper it will be shown how this works out on three levels:

  1. National cultures: per culture dimensions it will be outlined how this affects the interaction and expectations between coaches and players.
  2. How the combination of single culture dimensions (Mental Images) affects leadership styles and even preferences for style of play.
  3. Organizational culture as a strategical tool in sports

Keywords: Sports, Culture, Mental Images, Coaching, Globalization

Globalization and sports

Professional sport reflects globalization. In football, you can frequently see that players of up to 11 nationalities are on the pitch in the starting lineup.

Coaches are increasingly interested in understanding how to “manage” this diversity.

In this article, the emphasis is on a vital element in understanding human behaviors: culture. In addition to the general human traits that are valid worldwide and distinguish what characterizes us as individuals, there is something that makes our values different due to our culture. These values steer our education and influence our preferences in dealing with others.

The influence of these preferences is visible in the Sports world when integrating players from other cultures.

Culture. What are we talking about?

A few recent examples:

  • Globalization is strongly affecting professional sports. So, Gregor Aisch, Kevin Quealy and Rory Smith observed in 2018. They showed that most of the top professional sports leagues in North America and Europe share an important trait: They will be more international in composition than ever before.

In top football teams like Chelsea, Manchester United and Barcelona, sometimes more foreign-born players are in the starting team than natives. Coaching such teams requires an understanding of the culturally different communication styles and leadership expectations of the players in the team.

  • Recently (17 June 2022, speaking to Mirror Football, a former Manchester United defender said: “I think last season was a nightmare with the changing of the manager and finishing sixth. That was a real nightmare, so I don’t think [it can get worse]. He added about the new (Dutch) coach, Erik ten Hag: “Erik’s been successful because he’s got his own personality and his own management style. For United, you must embrace the culture, so he needs to do that. The work methods he knows, he should stick with what you know best. But he has to embrace the culture and the heritage of the Club. When addressing the players, you need to know what the Club is about. It will help motivate them. For me, that’s key.”
  • In 2021Rory Smith said in the New York Times that in recent years, the soccer world slowly accepted the idea that culture matters. Club owners and managers who adhere to a philosophy, a particular set of beliefs, like Louis van Gaal did as Manchester United coach, are no more seen as “wimps.” Smith wrote: “It is understood, on some level, that possessing a clear sense of what you want yourto be, offers a competitive edge: It helps recruit the right players, it makes coaching them more effective, it offers a barometer of success and purpose that is not reliant on individual results. At an executive level, it can even, at times, ease the transition between one manager and the next. Fans, increasingly, no longer see a manager talking about a philosophy and a vision as marketing jargon or corporate bunk. It is, instead, something to cling to and believe in, a reason to be proud.” (Smith Rory 2021)  

National culture, Mental Images and organizational culture

The above examples show that, in principle, we should distinguish between country and organizational cultures. In essence, the distinction is a matter of “deeply” culture is affecting behavior.

  1. The gravitational importance of National culture.

Culture has different layers. The outer layers (symbols, heroes, and rituals are visible but are also more superficial and, as a result, more changeable, for example, by trends, leadership, or fashion. The deepest layer concerns values and is fundamental in understanding diversity. This level is difficult to observe directly because, unlike the other layers, values are invisible as if they were the part of the iceberg that lies underwater.

The most extensive and fundamental research done on cultural differences comes from the hand of Dutchman Geert Hofstede. He is therefore seen as one of the 20 most influential thinkers in a ranking by the Wall Street Journal ‘ from a few years ago.

Based on his global research, Hofstede distinguishes four main dimensions of national culture: Power Distance (PDI), Individualism/collectivism (IDV), masculinity/Femininity (MAS), and Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI)

These dimensions are measured on a scale of 0 to 100 (some countries have a value higher than 100 in practice because they were measured after defining the original ranking). The original data was based on a pervasive IBM study with 116.000 questionnaires in 72 countries and 20 languages. The results were validated and revalidated with more than 40 follow-up studies from various disciplines. The scores for each country on these dimensions explain and behavioral preferences of people in, for instance, sports.

We will give the description and an overview of the consequences for each of the dimensions.

The first dimension is power distance. This is about the degree of Acceptance of hierarchy. All Asian, African, and Arab countries score high on this Acceptance of hierarchy.

The same is true for European countries like France, Belgium, Spain, and Italy. The trainer is the boss and must take the initiative. That is different in low power distance cultures like the USA, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia. Here the players are “programmed” to see themselves as autonomous and “empowered.”

Examples of the difference:

When an ex-Ajax Amsterdam player came to play in a Spanish club and discovered that he was used as a substitute, he was upset and wanted to discuss it openly with the coach. His fellow Spanish players warned him: If you do that, you’ll never play again.

At a Swedish club, several African players complained about the inaccessibility of the coach. The coach did not understand that. He was known as one of the most open persons in professional football. Interviewing them, I discovered that the coach assumed players with a problem would take the initiative to approach him: “My door is always open,” he said. In hierarchical cultures, however, the initiative always belongs to the coach. He is supposed to watch daily contacts and discover that something is wrong and then would instruct the players to come to him for a conversation.

The second dimension is masculinity/femininity, which does not describe gender, but the extent to which people are inclined to cooperate and align themselves with the team or are competitive and want to be recognized as the one who makes the decisive actions. For example, English and Scottish players are firmly masculine. When they perform well, they are more likely to claim privileges. When those players have a feminine trainer, who rejects special treatment for all, that can lead to conflicts. In feminine countries such as the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries, some sayings reflect the feminine mentality: if you put your head above the ground level, your head is chopped. An interesting consequence of the feminine culture dimension is that everyone is considered equal in their work. If you don’t participate in the game but only wait for the ball to score, it is seen as negative behavior and labeled as “star behavior” and gets negative commentary by the teammates and the coach.

The third dimension is that of individualism/collectivism. In individualistic cultures people focusses on the individual; in collectivist cultures people belong to in-groups who look after them in exchange for loyalty. In individualist cultures, values are in the person, in collectivist cultures, identity is based on the social network to which one belongs. In individualist cultures there is more explicit, verbal communication; in collectivist cultures communication is more implicit. The Netherlands is an ‘individualistic ‘ country where the same rules apply to everyone, which everyone should adhere to. South American countries like Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina are more collectivist, with different rules for different groups. The loyalty to your “in-group” are more important than the official rules. One consequence is that “dives” are part of the play. Players are astonished if their Individualistic coaches and fellow players do not appreciate this behavior.”

Two further important consequences of collectivism:

-Hypersensitivity to “loss of face. Players from such countries are susceptible to loss of face. Coaches and players should never be criticized in public. If negative feedback is to be given, then always under four eyes.

– Colleagues are also your friends. In collectivist cultures you are always part of a group. After the training, you go together to the restaurant, cinema, etc. Many players from collectivist cultures feel fatally lonely in Individualistic countries. After the training. Everybody goes home and has his own private life

The fourth dimension is about uncertainty avoidance. PLayers from strong Uncertainty Avoidant cultures like Italian and Portuguese clubs hold many players behind the ball to avoid risk as much as possible, while taking risks in Anglo-Saxon countries like England and the USA is positively appreciated.                                                                                      In countries with a high score on uncertainty avoidance, there is a high degree of need for structure. Emotionally players and coaches “need to know where they are. Only then can they function well.

The following is a systematic analysis of the dimensions and implications for coaches and players

The implications for relationship coach and player.


                     Low           Power Distance          High

Coaches expect players to: Coaches expect players to:
•       Initiate communication Wait until the coach begins to communicate.
•       Find their own way, show initiative. Know that he is determining the direction.
•       Spontaneously open their mouths Waiting to speak until they are asked.
•       Contradict if they have different opinions Never to contradict him.




Coach nor player should face lose Confrontation can be useful
Great loyalty to “in” group. Other rules for outsiders. Face loss is not that important.
Harmony must remain Coaches are impartial
Of coaches is accepted that they are traits based on the background or recommendation of an important person. The same rules for everyone




Players are modest. Stars are allowed to profile and expect other treatment.
Avoid Coaches to publicly praise good players. Coaches praise good players publicly.
Criticizing each other = keep each other sharp. Criticizing = negativism.
Just do normal then you are crazy enough… Players very visible.
If you come up with your head above ground level…


                             Low    Uncertainty Avoidance       High

Coaches don’t lose credibility right away when they say, “I Don’t Know” Coaches are expected to have all the answers.
Players are rewarded for flexible solutions in the field. For creativity. Players are rewarded for precise follow-up of tactical clues.
Coaches are expected to suppress emotions during the game. Coaches may be emotional.
Coaches interpret discord as potentially stimulating. Coaches See discord as personal disloyalty.
Coaches accept in principle input from all involved. Coaches see themselves as experts who can learn nothing more from others.


  1. The combinations of single dimensions: Mental Images

In practice, country cultures cannot be understood by the separate value dimensions one by one. “The whole is more than the sum of parts. Therefore, combining the four fundamental value dimensions leads to something new, a “Gestalt.” Seven of these Gestalts are identified (Wursten 2019). The word “mental images” is used to differentiate between the Gestalts. The term reflects an essential consequence of the seven combinations: they lead to seven different “pictures” in the mind of people of what society and organizations look like.   Even the approach to sports is affected by these Mental Images.

To fully appreciate the seven Mental Images, it is essential to understand that the countries belonging to a particular Mental Image have similar values. But that does not mean they are identical. Sharing the same “rules of the game” does not always lead to the same decisions! In every culture, different forces are at work. For instance: you’ll find different mixes in all cultures of conservatives and progressives. Issues like size, location, and geography all play a role. Even the personality of leaders can play a role.

Mental Images have a “gravitational influence” on behavioral preferences. In sports, this means, among other things:

  1. It influences the way the spectators prefer the game to be played
  2. It affects the profile of an effective coach
  3. It influences the expectations concerning the interaction between the coach and the players

Short overview of the seven Mental Images

  • The arrows indicate a low, middle, or high score.


  1. Playing style to satisfy the local spectators:

Offensive play, dynamic, stars crucial to attract the public, risk-taking,

Competition should be continuous to maintain interest. Nobody should win forever

Examples: salary caps, first draw

2. Special issue for the coach: accountability for everything that is happening in the team

3. Interaction between coaches and players

– a coach is expected to accept and welcome that players take the initiative and initiate


– players are expected to be empowered and find their way

– a coach is expected to accept that players argue if they have a different opinion

– a coach is supposed to be flexible and adaptive

– A coach is expected to reward unexpected solutions

– a coach is expected to accept the special treatment of successful players


  1. Playing style. To satisfy the local spectators:

Dynamic, offensive without too many fixed roles. Defenders should be able to play offensive. Offensive players should be able (and willing) to put energy into defending.

Even weaker teams should not play destructive. Technical play is appreciated.

  1. Special issue for the coach: be seen as a coordinator between all interest groups
  2. Interaction between coaches and players

– a coach is expected to accept and welcome that players take the initiative and initiate


– players are expected to be empowered and find their way

– a coach is expected to accept that players argue if they have a different opinion

– a coach is supposed not to be afraid of confrontation

– a coach is supposed to be flexible and adaptive

– a coach is expected not to accept the special treatment of successful players

– a coach is expected to have the same rules for everybody

– coaches are supposed o be modest

– a coach is supposed to see verbal aggression in the team as keeping each other sharp

– Coaches are accepted to saying: I don’t know

– Coaches accept, in principle input of all

Well Oiled Machine

  1. Playing style to satisfy local spectators: Powerful and dynamic play with a balance between defensive and offensive approach is expected. Therefore, competitive players are preferred with many skills but also willing and able to fit the structured team approach.
  2. Special issue for the coach: expert behavior and attention to detail is expected.
  3. interaction between coaches and players         

– coaches understand that players emotionally need clear structures and procedures.

– the team approach is functionality (tasks and goals)

– coaches accept initiative from players

– coaches have all the answers (“to say: I don’t know is unacceptable)

– coaches are supposed to be up to date with the latest technological developments in their branch of sports

Solar System

  1. Playing style to satisfy local spectators:

Intelligent, strategic play with brilliant “playmaker.” Expected is technical and “clever” play

  1. Special issue for the coach: a good coach is well-behaved and “connected.”
  2. Interaction between coach and players:

– The coach takes the initiative in the communication (also concerning simple changes)

– To steer top down

– Understand that they wait for the initiative of the coach to speak up

– Not to tolerate contradiction from players

-To inspect visibly to see if decisions are followed up

– Now and then, act emotionally

– To apply the same rules for everybody

– Key players, however, expect special treatment             



  1. Playing style to satisfy local spectators:

Secure defense with brilliant individual players who are expected to make a difference.

Players should try to “trick” the opponent into making mistakes and then striking immediately.

  1. Special issue for a coach: be like a strict but parentlike person. Reward loyalty by taking care of players beyond the strict contractual relationship.
  2. Interaction between coach and players:

– the coach should take the initiative in the communication (also concerning simple changes)

– management style is top down

– the players should understand that they have to wait for the initiative of the coach to

speak up

– the coach is not supposed to tolerate contradiction

–  the coach is supposed to inspect visibly to see if decisions are followed up

– now and then, the coach should react emotionally.

– older players expect special treatment

– among players: colleagues are also friends. They do things together after the training.

– nobody should lose face

– Coach needs to structure the training to create “safety.”


  1. Playing style to satisfy local spectators: Open, persistent, offensive play with age-determined hierarchy in the team
  2. Special issue for a coach: be like a strict but parentlike person. Reward loyalty by taking care of players beyond the strict contractual relationship.
  3. Interaction between coach and players:

– the coach should take the initiative in the communication (also concerning simple changes)

– management style is top down

– the players should understand that they must wait for the initiative of the coach to

speak up

– the coach is not supposed to tolerate contradiction

–  the coach is supposed to inspect visibly to see if decisions are followed up

– older players expect special treatment

– among players: colleagues are also friends. They do things together after the training.

– nobody should lose face

– No emotional need for structuring


  1. Playing style to satisfy local spectators: Dynamic, balanced, persistent, play with age-determined hierarchy in the team
  2. Special issue for a coach: be like a strict but parentlike person. Reward loyalty by taking care of players beyond the strict contractual relationship.
  3. Interaction between coach and players:

– the coach should take the initiative in the communication (also concerning simple changes)

– management style is top down. Coaches can ask individual players to give feedback privatly

– the players should understand that they must wait for the initiative of the coach to

speak up

– the coach is not supposed to tolerate contradiction

–  the coach is supposed to inspect visibly to see if decisions are followed up

– older players expect special treatment

– among players: colleagues are also friends. They do things together after the training.

– nobody should lose face

– Strong emotional need for structure

Organizational culture and country culture.

After defining the consequences of country culture, it is possible to define organizational culture. This is important because the standard theories of organizational culture promoted by the big consultancy firms mix up the two. Which leads to, for instance, a belief in “Universal leadership” models. A naïve belief that explains many misunderstandings in international organizations.

An example: One important element in leadership in the USA, Australia and the UK is accountability. This word can be translated in other languages. But the meaning in Anglo-Saxon cultures is special: you are held accountable for what you are doing. Your head is at stake and if you don’t reach your clearly defined targets, you can be fired or demoted. If you are appointed in a leadership position than the others tend to follow your lead because they naturally understand that you are accountable. This can be confused by people from other culture as hierarchical behavior. I found following in an interview with a famous Dutch swimming coach appointed to be the coach for the Australian Olympic team. He expressed his surprise and said: we think that we have the same opinions because we look similar. But that is untrue.

One of the surprises is that he had to get used to is (what he calls) hierarchical attitudes of the Australians. He is seen as the Boss.

In the interview he elaborates on this perception: Some of his predecessors dictated training schedules from a distance to all top swimmers, an idea that his completely contrary to his need for tailored work. He tries to break down the formality. He does not want to be above the others, but he realizes that this is what is expected from him in Australia. The way they look at leadership is totally different. If I enter the room somewhere the Head Coach is coming in. I’m not saying they are kowtowing, but in the beginning, they stopped the training. Sometimes they were apologizing that the training was probably not that interesting. They had the feeling they should show the head coach their best side.

Also, the control need of the Australians was surprising him. Too much is officially laid down in do’s and don’ts. He belief in freedom and responsibility. Even if younger swimmers are sometimes making mistakes. This is giving them the chance to learn. If you try to control everything than the own responsibility disappears!

Analysis: the key words here are “Hierarchy” and “Control”. Repeated cultural research shows that the Netherlands and Australia score quite similar in the relevant value dimensions explaining the acceptance of hierarchy and the need for control. Both countries score low(er). The reason for the misunderstanding lies in the different interpretation of accountability.

Club culture; Transfer prices, player careers and creating a winning team. The danger of taking culture out of the equation!

The Guardian of August 13, 2022, carried an article written by Jason Stockwood, the owner of Grimsby, a League two club in the UK. The heading was: While money is a huge help, it is culture that drives success in football.

Stockwood is talking about the influence of money in nowadays football world.

Rich clubs can pay enormous amounts of money to buy the best players in the world. Then they “own” the players. This creates a problem because: ” it reinforces to some clubs that the contracts they are creating are commoditized in nature.” He says:” To feel that your strategy and culture is subsumed by conversations about money feels grubby and unsatisfactory and decisions about people’s lives and families are reduced almost entirely to someone’s else’s decision on a price.

This makes it difficult for players and agents to assess the culture of an organisation and to weigh if they fit in the new environment and team and in this sense to be able control their destiny. As Stockwood says: “culture is the thing that drives success in any organization”

Stockwood refers then to The Second Mountain. In this book by David Brooks, the author says that: “purpose, togetherness, relationships and belonging matter more than we realize in our hyper-individual world. As we get older, we begin to understand that individual success is entirely pointless unless connected to family, community, and a bigger picture (whatever that might be).

The advice for players, their agents, and even club owners is:  Take culture into account! “In a career that is short and where top talent is incredibly scarce, there is a huge opportunity for clubs that can authentically show a collective home for individual brilliance.”

To take culture into account the suggestions by Brooks are:

  • Talk to the “owners”. The personal values and behaviours of owners will have a massive influence on how people are viewed and treated. One way to do this is to look at who controls the money, how they got it and how they act in their other businesses.
  • Speak to the manager or head coach about who makes the decisions on playing and coaching. Unless you have that expertise, I’d suggest owners shouldn’t be involved unless asked. This is most often not their domain of expertise and exerting control in this area is a sign of a lack of empowerment and trust in those they work with.

Dimensions of club culture

The question is which elements of (club) culture are essential for optimal performance. First, to describe club culture, a practical definition: “the way how we do things in our club.”

“The way we do things” can be analyzed with seven independent dimensions. (Hofstede Insights Group. nda). The dimensions are meant to create the unwritten rules of the social game in which managers, workers, players, and coaches can perform optimal. Levers like symbols, rituals, strategies, systems, structures, reward/sanction systems, competence profiles are developed, rolled out and implemented to assure the right environment.

Dimensions of Club Culture

D1 Resources – vs. Goal orientation

D2 Internal vs. externally driven

D3 Discipline: Loose vs. tight

D4 Local vs. professional

D5 Open vs. closed

D6 Employee vs. Work oriented

D7 Acceptance of leadership

D1 Resources vs. Goal-orientation.

This dimension describes the extent to which members of the organization identify with how they work versus identifying with goals and results. This dimension says something about the effectiveness of the organization. The more emphasis is placed on how the game is played, the less the focus is on the results. The characteristic of creative players is that they often do not fit into the pattern. Because they often find it challenging to adapt to the general approach, they are sometimes dismissed and referred to as not “steerable.” However, there are many examples of such players going to another club and becoming stars there.

Another example is that uniformity of approach at some clubs leads to a uniform group of players—only good midfielders, or only good defenders, etc. Putting results first also leads to an eye for the diversity of individual talent. The staff must have an eye for the personality traits of the player. Some players need to be confronted hard now and then to motivate them, and some players need to be supported.

D2: Internal vs. Externally driven

This dimension describes to what extent the organization is focused on the customer (supporters and sponsors) and their wishes. In other words, how do the sports club members relate to each other and to external parties. When a culture is internally focused, the organization members assume they know what is best for the customer and the outside world. In an externally driven culture, on the other hand, the emphasis is on meeting the customer’s wishes, and the members have a pragmatic attitude. When appointing trainers and attracting players, it is advisable to address this element. Not all trainers and not all types of players fit a specific club culture.

D3. Discipline: Loose vs. Tight

This dimension describes the degree of internal structuring and discipline. Here too, diversity is a point for attention. Players from countries such as Germany, Portugal and Japan experience the looser culture as somewhat unpredictable with little control. In such cultures, a need for structure is found, and the trainer/coach must actively monitor that. An example of a concrete tool that can meet this need for structure is an introduction program for new players. Good internal communication is essential; clearly communicate who we are, what we stand for, and do. Country culture plays a significant role in the degree of diversity in approach. It is typical for Individualistic countries that the rules apply to everyone equally. In cultures with a high degree of power distance and cultures with a “masculine” culture, different rules are often used for the team’s stars than for the others. This can even lead to significant conflicts if players from such cultures feel they are not receiving special treatment. They do not feel appreciated and acknowledged. Demotivation and underperformance are the results. Communicating with such players and the team about this is essential and creates mutual understanding.

D4. Local vs. Professional

The extent to which coaches and players identify with the traditional approach of the Club, or more with their profession or the content of the work. This dimension also says something about the tendency of those involved to conform to the social norm, which is higher as the culture is more locally oriented. Local culture is often focused on the short term, while a professional culture is focused on the long term. The professional orientation also means that coaches and players look beyond traditional knowledge. Experienced players and coaches, for example, look at how things are tackled in other sports and try to incorporate innovations into their approach.

An example is the incorporation of static data about the performance of players. This has led to surprising results in the Baseball world. Professional coaches in other sports make attempts to apply such techniques as well.

D5: Open vs. Closed

To what extent does the Club show that people from outside are welcome. To this end, a conscious policy must be pursued when fitting in new players. Here too, understanding differences in national culture is a “must ” Starting from the point of view of Individualistic cultures, there are two challenges: In collectivist cultures (South America, South Europe, Asia, and Africa), players are always part of a group. The fellow players are not only your colleagues but also your friends. You also deal with that group of friends after “working time .”You eat together, go to the cinema, or listen to music together. In IDV cultures, a distinction is made between colleagues you work with and friends. That means that after training, there is a tendency to say: “see you tomorrow” and then go home. This is experienced as cold by the players from collectivist cultures. They feel isolated and abandoned. This then influences their performance. The recommendation is to take this seriously and to act on this as a club, and not to leave this to individuals.

D6. Employee vs. work oriented.

This dimension is essential for the Acceptance of diversity. In work-oriented club cultures, there is no attention to the individual characteristics and needs of the players. You perform, or you are out. In employee-oriented cultures, the care for employees receives great attention. There is a great willingness to respond to individual characteristics and needs. In work-oriented cultures, no effort is made to keep those who do not like it in the team. A people-oriented culture is therefore desirable when hosting foreign players.

D7. Degree of Leadership Acceptance

There is a big difference in leadership models between cultures. In the Netherlands and Scandinavia, it is entirely accepted that the coach allows players to participate and that players take the initiative to do so. The coach can be confident that if players disagree with him, they will tell. That is why: no news is good news. This is different in the high-power distance countries and collectivist countries. Players, there are very reluctant to comment on the coach. That is not their place. The coach must take the initiative when asking about their ideas. In such cultures, another saying reflects practice very well: “people only respect what you inspect.” A modern coach’s leadership model will have to consider this diversity. That is not a matter of being friendly but of effectiveness. To motivate and be successful, the coach must adapt to the expectations that arise from the culture that the player comes from.


We now have about 20 years of experience in coaching sports coaches. The importance of knowledge in this field has only increased in those 20 years. We have received positive feedback and recognition from different angles. Yet it is still an underestimated subject.

There are still stories about players and coaches who fail after an expensive transfer due to a lack of guidance.

We have the ambition of helping players and coaches to cope with the consequences of the globalization of professional sports.Two key factors:

  1. Consciously develop a Club Culture and a Long-term Strategy and align both. (‘CASA’)
  2. Sports- and Management Teams should become culturally intelligent (‘CQ’)


Aisch Gregor, Quealy Kevin and Smith Rory.  Where athletes in professional sports come from, January 4 2018, The upshot

Beugelsdijk, S., Maseland, R. and van Hoorn, A. (2015), Are Scores on Hofstede’s Dimensions of National Culture Stable over Time? A Cohort Analysis. Global Strategy Journal, 5: 223–240. doi: 10.1002/gsj.1098

De Volkskrant March 28, 2015. Interview with Jacco Verhaar.

Hofstede Geert, Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions and Organizations Across Nations, 2nd Edition. 596 pages. Thousand Oaks CA: Sage Publications, 2001, hardcover, ISBN 0-8039-7323-3; 2003, paperback, ISBN 0-8039-7324-1.

Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G.J., & Minkov, M. (2010). “Cultures and Organizations, Software of the Mind”, Third Revised Edition, McGrawHill 2010, ISBN 0-07-166418-1. ©Geert Hofstede B.V. quoted with permission

Hofstede Insights Group: Multi Focus model nda

Smith Rory, New York Times Febr. 6, 2021 Newcastle, Leeds, and the importance of being…something

Stockwood Jason The Guardian of August 13, 2022, While money is a huge help, it is a culture that drives success in football

Marsh Dan 17 June 2022 in Mirror Online, Mikael Silvestre explains why Man Utd’s “nightmare” can be positive for Eric ten Hag

Wursten, H. (2017). Mental images of culture, a perspective to understand misunderstandings in politics, business, religion &… Retrieved from

Wursten Huib. The 7 Mental Images of National Culture Leading and managing in a globalized word (2019)ISBN-10: 1687633347 ISBN-13: 978-1687633347


Repeated research is showing that these values and the scores of countries are not, or very slowly, changing over time.

– A Danish scholar, M. Søndergaard (5), found 60 (sometimes small scale) replications of Hofstede’s research. A meta-analysis confirmed the five dimensions and the scores of countries.

A replication, showing the same result was carried out by including Hofstede’s questions in the EMS, the European Media & Marketing Survey.

Aa replication by Beugelsdijk, S., Maseland, R. and van Hoorn, A. (2015), “Are Scores on Hofstede’s Dimensions of National Culture Stable over Time? A Cohort Analysis”. Global Strategy Journal, 5: 223–240. DOI: 10.1002/gsj.1098