Delivering teamwork on the pitch
Germany's winning team celebrate their DHL EuroCup 2004 success.
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LONDON, England -- With Euro 2004 in full swing in Portugal, the working days of football fans from Athens to Riga will be disrupted by thoughts on tactical dilemmas, daydreams of national sporting glory and the depression of hopes quashed.
But for the employees of one European company, the winners of the year's biggest tournament have already been decided.
For more than 20 years express courier DHL have been using football as a way of bringing their network of international employees together.
The DHL EuroCup, which started in 1982 as a friendly kickabout in a backyard in Amsterdam, is now an annual fixture in the company's calendar, featuring more than 40 teams and over 2,500 people.
Staged this year over a weekend at the end of May, at the Center Parcs holiday resort near DHL's headquarters in Brussels, the tournament provides a perfect opportunity for bonding between employer and employees, with everyone, from chief executive to courier, lodged in non-hierarchical chalets.
And with each team supported by its own troupe of cheerleaders (who have their own competition), musicians, and face paint-daubed supporters, the action on the field is merely a backdrop to the colorful party on the sidelines.
"The biggest benefit is the motivation and excitement for those who are participating," says DHL chief executive Peter Kruse.
"The company just provides the opportunity and everything else, training and so forth, is based on their individual efforts in their private time. People are talking about this through the whole year.
"Sharing a mutual spirit and working towards a mutual goal -- that's what we do in our professional life and it's what people are experiencing here in a different way. And that contributes to the spirit of the DHL family."
As the head of an international business, Kruse emphasizes the importance of fostering personal contact between employees, and says that football has proved an effective way of bringing together a global workforce.
Following the expansion of the European Union, this year's tournament featured teams from Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia for the first time.
"I think more or less everybody is interested in sports," says Kruse. "So really the organization overall takes part in this event.
"People need to deal with international colleagues and if you know an individual and you can remember his face during a telephone discussion, that's a useful side effect."
Supporters fly the flag for the Norwegian team.
Since DHL's integration with Deutsche Post World Net in 2002, Kruse says the tournament has helped forge closer links across the expanded company.
"Two years ago we started the big integration process within Deutsche Post World Net," explains Kruse.
"That means that these days at DHL we also have companies operating under a different brand in the past. The organization has expanded a great deal. Today DHL globally consists of 170,000 employees with more than 90,000 in Europe alone.
"When people meet here they are not only playing but they are also discussing all kinds of things with each other, about individual issues they have in their respective areas. This very much helps to improve mutual understanding."
But while the DHL EuroCup may be mostly about networking, there is also a trophy -- and national pride -- at stake.
And while Germany's national team at Euro 2004 may no longer be the heavyweight of past tournaments, their DHL counterpart still proved capable of bringing home the silverware, beating Italy 1-0 in the final.