From crowded stadiums to quiet fields, it’s the world’s game, bringing together people from every country. But it’s not just players and fans who are being brought together by the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil – it’s work teams, too.


“Football is, literally, a level playing field,” said Coca-Cola brand manager Ben Cummings. The playing field he talks about has been North Sydney oval, where teams of Coke employees have been battling it out in a five-a-side internal soccer competition.

Designed to promote co-operation and collaboration across the entire Coca-Cola global business, the tournament offers the winning team a trip to the World Cup. According to Ben, the experience strengthened friendships with some colleagues, and built new relationships with others. “It was great to have an informal gathering where you could be on the same level, whereas typically in the office setting the hierarchy comes into play,” he said.

Rather than the savage contest we’re likely to see between teams in Brazil, Ben emphasised the co-operative nature of the game. An experienced player who had previously competed in premier league level in the local competition, Ben wanted to impart some of his skills to the rest of his team. “I wanted to make sure that people in my team really enjoyed the experience, and that we didnt take it so seriously that we forgot about why we were doing it,” he said.

It was an approach that saw Ben named Best and Fairest. “I was actually surprised by that, because I wasnt the best player by a long shot,” he said. “I think that, at least within my team, I made an effort to make sure that everyone felt included. It was nice to be recognised for that.”

Apart from reinforcing social ties with colleagues, Ben believed that the relaxed nature of the games improved his performance back at work. “I got to meet people from other parts of the business that I dont have direct day-to-day contact with,” said Ben. “It created friendships, and beyond the tournament, those friendships now are evolving into better relationships in the business.”

The tournament’s organiser, public relations manager Bobbie Crothers, agrees. “Im really amazed at how it helped to build stronger relationships between the associates,” she said.

Despite their best efforts, the Aussie teams were beaten out by a team from Coca-Cola USA for the prize of 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil tickets. But, in this instance, the game wasn’t all about winning - not on the field, at least.