FIFA world cup 2018 presented many surprises. No one ever thought that the football giant and defending champion Germany would crash out in the group matches. German team was eliminated in the group matches for the first time in 80 years. Similarly the greatest players Christiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Lionel Messi of Argentina failed to take their teams to quarter finals. These top goal scorers even missed penalty shots. Similarly former world champion Spain was defeated by Russia. Many unexpected teams from insignificant countries performed excellently and defeated the great teams in this tournament.
The German defeat provides many valuable lessons for every community/ organization that wants to make progress and sustain them. Complacency, basking in past glory, lack of speed and stamina, failure of strategy to meet the challenges in adverse situations, lack of visionary leader/ coach and internal conflicts made German team crash out in the first phase itself.
The team members and the coach had overconfidence to win the championship because of their past performance and victories. In the past they had defeated the best teams to win the title four times. This time they were complacent and basking in past glory. They did not realize that the small countries without much history of winning had prepared well for the tournament. While these new teams had speed, stamina and fighting spirit to win, German team was following their traditional ways. They lacked speed, stamina and precision. The great players who used to score did not succeed this time. Neither the team members nor the coach took seriously the warning they got from the defeat in the first match with Mexico.
The communities which have long tradition and history also make the mistake of basking in past glory, depending on the old brand names. They are not aware of the realities and challenges in the fast changing world. Though Jesus Christ has warned two thousand years ago about the danger of new wine and the need for new wineskin to contain it, the communities and the church leadership are not willing to look for new alternatives, new wineskins, to meet the new challenges in the fast changing socio-political scenario.
As speed, stamina and skills are essential to win the match, the church and religious congregations need to be fast in decision making and responding to the challenges. Dependence on the past formalities and protocols will make us outdated and irrelevant. Excuses like, “We shall do it later; we shall do it next year” will make us irrelevant and outdated.
German coach Joachim Löw was too overconfident in his strategy and methods. He did not foresee the challenges from other teams with young and energetic players. He did not search for new talents to replace the aged players of the last world cup team. Moreover Joachim should have taken a lesson from Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane who resigned after giving victory to the team in nine championships including 3 consecutive European cups. The words of Zidane after quitting when he was most wanted provides lessons to leaders in every field: “This is a team that should keep on winning and it needs a change for that. After three years it needs another discourse, another methodology and that’s why I took the decision. I think it’s the moment to go”.
Like politicians, many who hold leadership positions in religious congregations and church institutions do not want to leave the position. Even if they are tired and sick they do not wish to retire. They make themselves so indispensable and fail to train new leaders. The most important quality of an enlightened leader is to prepare many new leaders to take his/ her place. Leaders after many years do not want to give way for the new generation leaders. They feel insecure without power and position. As a result the whole congregation and organisation turn stagnant and unproductive.
Many teams with great players failed because they did not prepare every player to perform equally. Over importance to some make the team weak. Football is a team game. Everyone has a place and everyone has to perform equally. It is important to make sure that the mental stamina, enthusiasm and passion of each player is sustained. Any sort of internal conflicts and negligence will demoralize the team and its performance in the field.
In the communities and institutions the leader should ensure that the work is a collective mission of every member. No one can be taken for granted. Everyone needs personal attention and appreciation. The leader/ coach and every member have to become aware of this essential aspect both in the playing field and outside. Any kind of attitudes or expressions which demoralize even the least member of the team should be avoided. Mental and emotional unity of every member of the team is essential for winning the match.
Determination, untiring passion, speed, stamina and united teamwork can change the course of a match miraculously. The match played between Japan and Belgium at the knockout stage on July 2 was a perfect example. Unexpectedly Belgium conceded two goals in the first half of the match. It shocked everyone and it was almost sure that the Asian team Japan would move to Quarterfinals for the first time. In the second half of the game the Belgium team showed their determination and coordination with fast moves. Not only they scored two goals to equalize the game but also scored a third one just before the final whistle.
Despite having over one lakh committed consecrated personnel, wealth and infrastructure spread across the country, the Church in India today has become not only irrelevant but faces a lot of opposition and attacks. These consecrated men and women are like players in the football field running up and down and kicking balls without precision. They work without any vision and definite goals. Ignorance of the socio-political context and lack of skills to deal with the hostile forces make our mission a failure. They get disappointed and frightened when faced with opposition and failure. No serious efforts are done by the leaders to analyse and prepare a strategy to equip the members with knowledge and skills to meet the challenges. Obtaining mere degrees through shortcuts and establishing institutions will not make the mission of the Church effective and relevant.
The Church is complacent about the routine and unproductive works. As the players go through regular rigorous practice to be fit, the religious and priests never take the trouble to be fit spiritually and intellectually through regular study, research and contemplation. Hence they lack skills and knowledge to meet the challenges in the fast changing world. We fail to measure the speed and strategies of the hostile forces. The mission of Christ gets defeated.
In football, a failed leader/coach gets fired. Players who do not play with speed, stamina and work as a team are replaced. In the Church, the leaders and members remain in their places despite their failure to perform. Hence scandals caused both by the members and leaders go unpunished, rather are covered up and defended.
World cup matches are still on. Make time to watch at least two or three matches after reading these reflections. They will provide enough food for contemplation and transformation .(Published on 09th July 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 28)