Nigeria’s coach Stephen Keshi (R) and defender Juwon Oshaniwa (L) congratulate forward Ahmed Musa after he scored a goal in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. AFP

Nigeria’s coach Stephen Keshi (R) and defender Juwon Oshaniwa (L) congratulate forward Ahmed Musa after he scored a goal in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. AFP

Numbers don’t lie. In this World Cup, African teams lost nine of their 15 games and won only three. They scored 18 goals between them and conceded 28. As I write this piece, all the African teams have been eliminated.

This World Cup is widely being hailed as the greatest for many, many years. But it appears the gulf between African football and the rest of the world is growing.

And it has nothing to do with the players. Poor organisation, bad management and administrative deficiencies have inevitably affected the teams’ performances.

Sport, just like business, is war. In war, an undisciplined unit will execute an order haphazardly, or it will even fail to execute it at all. Without discipline, confusion reigns, and when the situation becomes serious under hostile fire, both coolness and co-operation are absent. Then the superior officer is no longer the actual commander.

There is a well-known saying: “Troops are like their commanders.” Resolving this statement into the elements of discipline, it means that the commander must be the best-disciplined man in his unit if he demands obedience from each of his juniors.

But in actual combat, there must be another kind of discipline, a self-discipline originating within the individual.

The classic Roman legion would routinely beat larger barbarian forces by simply being disciplined. Standing shoulder to shoulder with shields and short stabbing swords, they would calmly let the undisciplined barbarian forces break around them like a rock in the middle of a stream.

They had smaller forces but they had a professional army with practised warfare techniques. The opposing forces were usually ill-equipped and untrained farmers. A smaller, veteran force can use its discipline and experience to win.

How does this apply to your business? It is the same practice and drilling of basic business skills, like giving presentations and answering you top 10 hard questions. These should be practised until they are an automatic and effective response.

Unlike other continents, Africa’s footballers belong to us all – not to Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Ivory Coast or even Algeria – but to a whole expectant mass in constant need to reassert ourselves as a continent of heart and talent, especially on the world stage.

Before you start thinking about attracting new candidates, it’s a good idea to first make sure you are not actually losing your best people. It seems obvious, but I often see this in companies.

People forget the fact that when one company is recruiting candidates, another business is losing them. You have to make sure your company is not doing the latter.

Quarter-finalists France, for example, had eight players in their squad who could have played for African nations. In terms of football reasons – and leaving aside their personal feelings of belonging – it is easy to see why players would choose to play for France over some African countries and avoid the kind of problems that have blighted the continent at this year’s finals.

For African football to move forward, it must find a way to forge an environment that looks after its players and has a transparent and fair administration.

You must get your internal culture right – and get your business model right – and you’d be surprised just how quickly word gets around that your company is the place to work. And don’t think you necessarily have to be in a glamorous, media-centric industry either.

Discipline by itself will not guarantee a win, but without discipline you are sure to lose. When the blood starts to fly in the heat of battle, when your heart rate soars in the moment of truth – you want your discipline to take over, not your fight or flight response.

Mr Waswa is the MD of Outdoors Africa.