My Guatemalan buddies are wailing unconsoled over Spain’s
loss humiliation at by Netherlands, a 5-1 spanking that upended the Red Fury’s hegemony. Actually, Spain hasn’t been overlords for long. Until they won the EuroCup six years ago, they were the world’s historic underachievers. But then the won the World Cup and another Euro Cup and imposed superior football wherever they pleased.
They were gracious overlords. Once when thumping Italy, Spain goalie Iker Casillas asked the ref to end the game earlier to mitigate the damage done to such formidable rivals. Gracious, but unbeatable.
No more. At last year’s World Cup warmup tournament (called the Confederations Cup), they looked worn-out against Brasil. Fans laughed them off the field.
They looked spent again yesterday. Netherlands, which fell to Spain in the World Cup final last time, exorcised the spirit of football from them yesterday. The Orange Machine played fast and tight defense in the mid-field (where Spain is usually master). They shut down passing lanes. They played brilliant counter-attack. They pulled off mouth-watering goals that will contend for best-ever in the highlights videos for decades to come.
Spain withered. Midfielder Xavi Hernandez — usually an incomparable play-maker with pinpoint passes that penetrate — was a non-presence. Impeccable Iker Casillas flubbed a backpass which gifted Van Persie a goal. Starlet Diego Costa probed he’s better at diving than scoring in open play.
“Let’s go, Spain!” my former student posted on Facebook. “Let’s go back to Spain,” I wrote in the msg. It’s not that I have anything against Spain. Actually, I love the team.
But I recognize that the cycle has ended, as it does for all teams. As aces grow older, they lose quickness and hunger. They become over-confident. They lose. At this point, it appears clear that the world of soccer is ready for a new king. Spain will have to reinvent itself, shed its fading stars and cultivate an entirely new crop. Only Andres Iniesta played like a star yesterday.
All this is good for me. It’s been four years since I have actively pastored. Right now, I’m one of 20 assistant pastors at my mother church. I’m champing at the bit to pioneer again. If I’m not announced at this conference, I’ll have to see what I can do because as Jeremiah said: “the fire is burning in my bones and I can’t keep quiet.”
It’s important to stay humble when you have wild success as a Christian or as person. It’s also important to know how to reconfigure when you are in a low or a failure. Will Spain ever be back to the peak? I’m more concerned about my own cycles of life.