The value of mind games if played well

The value of mind games if played well
Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson takes his seat in the stands before their English Premier League soccer match against Liverpool at Old Trafford in Manchester, northern England, March 16, 2014.

Both Jose Mourinho and Brendan Rodgers have downplayed their clubs' chances of winning the English Premier League (EPL) title. But don't be taken in entirely by what they profess in public.

Privately, I am sure that they must be telling the Chelsea and Liverpool players respectively that they have what it takes to go all the way in the final run-in.

Alex Ferguson was an expert at mind games and it is common for many managers to do the same, in a bid to reduce pressure on their players and undermine their opponents.

Mourinho, for example, has declared that Manchester City, and not his team, are the favourites for the EPL title. While Rodgers has long maintained that the Reds are not title contenders. Interestingly, both teams are first and second in the EPL respectively.

In short, don't take them too seriously.

One thing that I have always appreciated while representing Singapore was coach Raddy Avramovic's ability to reduce expectations of us.

We were under great pressure to win the AFF Suzuki Cup in 2012 but he claimed that other nations were more likely to end up winners.

Privately, he told us he believed in us and that we could go all the way, and that gave us confidence without the added expectations from the media and the fans.

Footballers are used to playing under pressure but less focus from the media and fans will cut down on distractions and lead to better performances. This was a major factor in us winning the Cup.

Other than mind games by managers to gain an edge over rivals, players will also seek ways to gain an advantage in title races too, as exemplified by Daniel Sturridge's dive for the third penalty against Manchester United on Sunday.

All players want to win games and titles, so it is inevitable that they may make spur-of-the-moment decisions to go to ground to gain an advantage for their team.

Diving has became common in Tuesday's game. And, while referees have a tough job, given how they have to make decisions in a split second, more should be done to stop diving. I'm for heavier punishment if that will help.

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