More on sports today.
As an anonymous reader commented yesterday, there are indeed quite a few non-Italians names on the Trentino Volley team -- six Italians and six non-Italians to be exact. This is pretty standard for teams in the professional Italian championship Volleyball league which is one of the top leagues to play for in the world. What is unusual is the Eastern European block -- three Bulgarians, two Poles and one Serbian. Add in the Bulgarian coach and an Italian national that comes from Slovenia and the team was heavily weighted to the East. In fact, the playoff finals were transmitted and followed by a large public in Bulgaria!
From a cross-cultural perspective what is interesting is how these two distinct groups managed to form a true team that went on to win the Italian title. At the beginning of the year, there were a few language issues, but the newly arrived coach and his 23 year old Bulgarian star learned Italian at an amazing speed and actually used the language gap to the team's advantage. The coach would give instructions to one of the Bulgarians, who would translate to the rest of the team in a huddle so that the opponent across the net would not hear.
Perhaps the secret to overcoming cultural differences is setting a clear goal that everyone supports 100% -- in Trentino Volley's case it was making the Champions League. Throw in a few strong leaders with force of character and job is done.
There is a lesson in this.