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refrain: if you are good enough, you are old enough.

If there was anyone in the world I could ask to mentor me in spotting and developing potential, it would undoubtedly be Sir Alex Ferguson. One day, I will meet him, along with Eric Cantona and John Piper – these are the few people whose hands I’ve yet to shake and whose feet I will sit at to learn from.

I couldn’t help but to rack up my respect for the Gaffer with his latest statement on Rooney. Absolutely classic. I completely resound with the Boss.

… But Ferguson ratcheted up this extraordinary public battle, with a powerful and idiosyncratic late night explanation of why Rooney should have invested faith in his proven ability to spot talent and why the grass might not be as green as the striker really thinks it will be at Manchester City. “Sometimes you look in a field and you see a cow and you think it’s a better cow than the one you’ve got in the field,” Ferguson said. “It never really works out that way. It’s probably the same cow and its not as good as your own cow. Some players like to think there’s a better world somewhere else. It never really works.”

As metaphors go, it was about as memorable as Eric Cantona’s “seagulls follow the trawler” story, though and it was accompanied by Ferguson’s revelation that a lack of belief in his judgment in the transfer market had once persuaded a player – possibly Roy Keane – to leave because he thought Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were not good enough. “He was not prepared to wait until they were good enough,” Ferguson said.

“But that’s the trouble with potential,” he went on. “People don’t identify potential. They’re very poor at it. I’ve identified it all my life – the potential in young people. I know potential. I know how to develop and have faith in young people, who surprise you when given the opportunity and that’s what this club is all about. When you see Manchester United at the moment with all these young players, 14 under 22, you can’t see Manchester United three years ahead.”

(Source: The Independent)

WOW! What a statement of intent! I could totally see myself saying the same thing as Sir Alex! I always believe that we must be infinitely patient with (young) people, because one day, they will surprise you with their goodness. I’m sticking to my guns with this philosophy in my ministry. You can even look at the Bible to see traces of older men believing in much young men to mentor and take over their ministry.

I’ve achieved what I’ve intentionally set out to do – to lower the average age of all my first tier leaders. No, it’s not meant to declare anarchy or rebellion but to simply demonstrate my absolute belief in young people – by putting them on the frontline of leadership. I’m already thinking about the members of my first tier leadership team in 2012! The first thing I told these my current leaders is to find a successor. I believe it’s all well and good if one of my leaders want to remain in young ministry and serve until they’re old like me – in fact, I’d rejoice and praise God for their commitment and passion to serve the youths alongside me! But it should and must never come at the expense of preventing another young person from rising up in ministry. As long as I’m in charge, I will never allow that to happen. Leadership must always renew itself (although I must state my caveat that the higher the position, the harder the succession, and the lengthier the process).

Never, EVER, tell a young person he is a failure and will never make it. Remember one thing – he or she is still young! They have the licence and the privilege (just as you had when you were young!) to make mistakes and more importantly, to learn from it. Our hearts with wrench each time we see a young person falter, but it’s all about the recovery process – never forget that! I remind myself time and again that I’m never looking at the final product. Youth ministry is known to be transient and quite rightly so – the young person you see before your eyes today is far from being the polished individual you will see years later. I don’t know about you, but I’m committed to play my role in cleaning and sharpening this young person.

If I may reiterate Ferguson’s words, there are two lessons to learn and two principles to cherish if you’re in youth ministry:

  1. Be patient to wait until they come good, for they surely will, with the right guidance from you.
  2. If you can’t see their potential – that’s your problem – it doesn’t mean they do not have potential!

I’ve stated it on this blog before and I’ll happily post this paradigm-shifting quote again from the legendary Sir Matt Busby:

If you are good enough, you are old enough.

The funny thing is, the reverse may not be true! Again, I’m spilling my heart out on this matter because I’m so passionate about believing in young people. You’ll do yourself and the young people you are working with a world of injustice if you merely look at ability and age instead of potential and possibilities. You can limit yourself. But never, EVER, limit a young person. OH YEAH, THE SPRINGTIME OF YOUTH!

P/S: I’ve really missed the catharsis of writing daily!

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and here’s the full BBC transcript.

A couple of hours before I turned 21 for the seventh time, I received a Facebook message from a correspondent in BBC. She googled Wayne Rooney related news and chanced upon my blog. And she asked if I was keen to be on the “World, Have Your Say” radio talk show. I didn’t ask for this and I thought it was a pretty cool birthday present from the Lord, so I agreed without blinking. And it wasn’t before long that I was on the line with the talk show host, awaiting my turn to speak.

As a student, I was trained to talk on the radio, but nothing quite prepares you for your maiden experience, no less than on an international platform like BBC. Many things rushed through my head in the build-up to the programme and I was getting ready to regurgitate at least five minutes of continuous talking. As it turned out, based on the question that I was asked, I only managed to air about a tenth of what I had intended to share.

At the end of my very short interview, I hung up with a sigh of disappointment.

No, it wasn’t because I didn’t get enough time. And no, it wasn’t because I spoke poorly. It was simply because I didn’t get a chance to talk about Jesus Christ and about young people. I was disappointed with myself for that. I felt I had let the Lord down, and let my profession down.

So in order for me to go to bed with a peaceful heart, here’s the full part of what I had intended to say just now. Of course I would never dream of saying this entire chunk, but well, this is my blog and so I shall freely air my opinions here without any time or space limits. This is in context of the recent headlines of Wayne Rooney deciding to leave Manchester United and to answer the question: “Is money your priority at work?”

Hi Ros, thank you for having me on the show. Now, there aren’t many things that Wayne Rooney and I have in common except for the fact that we both belong to Gen-Y.

Before we talk about his supposed motivations of money, which we speculate, let’s take a step back to examine the generation that he belongs to. Unlike Gen-X, or the baby-boomers, who pride themselves in staying loyal to an organisation and finds it an achievement if they can call themselves a one-company man, Gen-Y, or the Millennials, is a group of people born from 1982-1995 and are motivated by their own personal ambitions. It has become a common practice for people of this age group to change jobs frequently, not because they are fickle, but because they are ambitious and adventurous; they are achievement oriented and want to attain as many career landmarks in their lives. We must not forget that Wayne Rooney is just 24 years old – he’s about as old as my extremely capable younger sister!

I think I can scarcely identify with Rooney because I am a Gen-Y in contact with Gen-Y everyday. I’m a youth minister with a Christian church in Singapore and for me to even be doing what I’m doing is proof of the characteristic Gen-Y attribute – to pursue your dreams; I’ve always had childhood dreams of being a youth pastor simply because of the way that I was brought up and the people who came into my life to invest in me. To be in the pastorate is something I’ve always wanted to do.

Before I worked in church, I worked in the marketplace as a marketing manager with an imported wine company. To a lot of my peers, especially the older (Gen-X) ones, what I have done is career suicide, simply because I have swapped a relatively high-paying salary to take on this job and earn an amount that half of what I used to take home. There are initial struggles with the financial adjustments of course, but I’d gladly do it all over again, anytime, any day. Simply because I’ve always dreamed of being a youth pastor.

That is why I think it wouldn’t be too far-fetched an idea to say that it’s for monetary factors that Rooney has decided to leave United. Even in his latest statements, we can pick up traces of ambition and pseudo-guaranteed success (or at least the platform to achieve it). On one hand, I won’t be surprised if Rooney cloaked his decision to leave United due to the recent controversies surround his private life – and I think if family is his priority, then good on him to move abroad to escape the vicious press in the UK – but on the other hand, I think it’s really because he’s an ambitious person.

Maybe he’s doing a Ronaldo, where he’s won everything he could win in England and wants to move to greener pastures. Or maybe he simply wants a change of environment after being at United since he was a teenager. A lot of people will tell him many different things – some advice are born from personal financial gain (his agent, perhaps) and some would simply be for the sake of his family (Coleen, perhaps). I wouldn’t be surprised if Rooney’s father was against his decision to leave United because of the loyalty-stained blood he has as an older gentlemen.

What I would tell Rooney, if I ever had the opportunity, is to listen to what his heart is telling him to do. I would love to say that he should listen to the voice of God, for that speaks louder and clearer than any other voice this world is offering – the only catch is that you have to first hear it! Unlike Rooney, who I assume isn’t a believer, I had an inner peace and an inner motivated that I’d like to believe is placed there by a divine being. With a supernatural backing, it was easy to go against the natural. I banked on God’s prompting in my heart and I made a decision based on a simple virtue that is uncommon in this world – obedience.

I’m not sure what you would think about it – but honestly, it doesn’t matter – because we could go on and on about opinions; they will continue to differ and digress. Everyone has childhood dreams. For Mr Rooney, he wants to be constantly on a platform that would enable him continuous success; I don’t think it’s really about money and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up with a club that gave him a similar salary as what United offered. For you, Ros, maybe you’re already halfway through your childhood dream of being able to speak to a worldwide audience.

For me, I am certain that what I am doing – and man! I absolutely love what I am doing! – and at this point of my life, I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I consider it an immense privilege to be able to play a small part in influencing, inspiring, intervening and interceding for a generation. For I know that whatever that I am doing with them today will impact them in their tomorrows. It gives me great satisfaction that I’m investing my life in theirs, and to tell them how much God loves them, has a great plan for them, and then to play my part in believing in what God can do through them – wow, what an honour! It really gives a reward that the world could not offer.

Thank you for having me on the show. I know that I’d never get to say all these things on air, but I thank you for giving me an opportunity to spill my heart in this setting, on my blog, as I always do. It is my prayer that this blog gives God full glory, for I am merely putting into words what He has put into my head. What a way to kick off my seventh 21st birthday. Be blessed, and be awesome. Cheers!

I know I am supposed to sleep, but I just remembered that United is playing Bursaspor now! Of course I will give in to this temptation to watch a Rooney-less United in action! With or without Rooney, Ronaldo, Beckham, Cantona or the plethora of talents that have gone before them, United will continue to advance. If they have survived Busby, Best, Charlton and Law, they can survive anything! United we stand, divided we still stand and remain United! GGMU!

if you’re good enough, you’re old enough.

In football (or any sport), there is would be nothing more humbling and sobering than to have a 18-year-old take the place of a 28-year-old in the first 11. And it is because of this youth threat that teams like Manchester United, Barcelona and Arsenal would always be ahead of the pack in the longer run. Both teams do it differently – United and Barcelona are not afraid to blood their own youngsters by replacing senior players in the big games while Arsenal is simply a youth team with a couple of senior players.

That has to be the greatest vote of confidence that Sir Alex Ferguson, Josep Guardiola or Arsene Wenger could give to the younger ones. This “I believe in you” that the vastly experienced managers tell the vastly inexperienced kids give them the drive to succeed and the belief that they are actually good enough. This realisation probably sounds like this, “Wow, this world-class manager actually believes that I can go on and help team win. I cannot disappoint him!” And the introduction of youth forces the senior and more established players to sit up, roll up their socks, get their act together and start to pull their weight and measure their contribution to the team like multimillion-dollar paid players.

The introduction of youth brings a certain amount of vigour and reinvigoration to a team. I’m sure the older and slightly more jaded players get refreshed by the sheer enthusiasm and energy that these youths have for football. That is the reason why we enjoy watching the three teams that I’ve mentioned and we tend to switch off when we watch a team like Chelsea, which Sir Alex has famously said before, “A team over 30 doesn’t improve a lot”. AC Milan is the odd exception though, being a retiree’s home; while the departure of Kaka has made them a less attractive football spectacle, they still play some decent football; putting Ronaldinho, Beckham, Pato and Pirlo together still produces a fair amount of flair and good football.

When I examine Chelsea – a team with everyone on the wrong side of 30, I see a 32-year-old Frank Lampard backed up by a 34-year-old Michael Ballack and a 28-year-old Petr Cech backed up by a 35-year-old Henrique Hilario. They do not produce their own youngsters (buying doesn’t count!) and they currently do not have any outstanding youngsters that look like they could successfully replace someone in the first team. In short, I think that there is no future in the team. They are all hanging on to current and former glories and can only hope to sustain its success by preserving its existing team. If you want to determine the long term regenerative success of a club, you simply need to scrutinise the set-up of its youth academy. Just look at teams like Olympique Lyon and Ajax Amsterdam as good examples.

It’s commonly said that “Form is temporary and class is permanent”. May I add on my five cents worth and say that while that is true, it is the average age of the team that determines its long-term reality; if you have no youth, you have no future. Many times we hear the statement, “The youths are the leaders of tomorrow”. I think that that is euphemised rubbish from cowardly leaders who do not put their money where their mouth is – it’s like saying, “Yes, yes, you do have potential, but you don’t have ability yet, so I can’t give you the platform to perform. I, on the other hand, believe that the youths are the leaders of today. It applies to football and it applies to any organisation. In the words of the legendary Sir Matt Busby, If they are good enough, they are old enough”. I rest my case. May the youths of today pave the way for the youths of tomorrow.

But I digress. Now back to football, it’s three youthful and resounding cheers to the United, Barcelona and Arsenal philosophy of playing their football. Keep watching, keep believing in youths.

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