If you have had the not-so-pleasant experience of driving at night or early in the morning in a dense fog, you know how stressful it is to drive without being sure of what lies ahead of you. In these uncertain times, it is worth remembering an unusual case in sports history when the goalkeeper of a soccer team had to play against the fog.
The year was , and the world was on the brink of entering the dark period of World War II. As often happens in times of great stress, people flocked to events as a way to escape reality, and soccer was the established king of sports.
Sam Bartram was the star goalkeeper of the Charlton Athletic, a humble team that had recently been promoted to a higher playing level and was making a name for itself in the First Division of the English football (soccer) league. In , they had to face a tough rival: the Chelsea team in the small Stamford Bridge stadium.
The teams came out onto the field, but to their surprise a dense fog had overtaken the playing area. In spite of this, the referee decided to go ahead with the game, hoping that the fog would dissipate.
As the minutes passed, the play was painstaking due to the poor visibility, but the athletes continued to run after the ball. Eventually the fog became even denser and the situation became unmanageable, so the referee stopped the game.
But on the other side of the field, Bartram had not heard the referee’s directives. He was still protecting the goal with outstretched arms.
In his autobiography, Bartram says that he found it strange when he suddenly did not see any players around. Nevertheless, the goalkeeper knew he had a responsibility to fulfill, so he kept his arms extended and his eyes wide open in case an opponent with the ball appeared out of the obscurity.
At this point, silence had overtaken the field. The typical sounds heard during a soccer game– the shouting, the movement of the players, the roar of the fans– were no longer audible. Despite this, the goalkeeper knew he had a mission, so he stood firm protecting his goal.
After a long time, a figure loomed out of the curtain of fog in front of me, Bartram wrote.
It was a policeman, and he gaped at me incredulously.
What on earth are you doing here? he gasped.
The game was stopped a quarter of an hour ago. The field’s completely empty.
While some found this incident amusing, others were outraged at Bartram’s teammates for not noticing his absence in the locker room. Many people felt that the goalkeeper’s attitude was noteworthy. He did not let his guard down even for a minute; he knew he had a task to do, and he was willing to do it regardless of the circumstances.
It is in times of uncertainty when a leader’s character is truly tested. It is in times of scarcity and conflict when a good leader carries the team forward. It is in times of anxiety, with an uncertain future, when a leader must inspire– no matter the circumstances– because he is called to fulfill a purpose.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many Latino entrepreneurs, along with leaders of organizations and faith groups, have reinvented themselves and the entities they represent. Sadly, others have been enveloped in the gloom. The reality is that the fog will pass. When the light shines again, it will be clear who has made contributions to their community and who has just showed up for the photos.