Barca may be out but SHEPHERD is just warming up

Lessons from the Catalans’ painful exit from Champions League and our efforts to reinvent ourselves as a news organisation amidst the ravages of coronavirus

A painful exit by FC Barcelona from the UEFA Champions League after being thrashed 8-2 by Bayern Munich is the talk among football fans. But besides the August 14 humiliation by the Bundesliga champions in Portugal, the game had vital life lessons to offer.

I like Barca’s entertaining tiki-taka (a Spanish style of play in football characterised by short passing and movement, working the ball through various channels, and maintaining possession) but I registered the shock in the eyes of the team members led by star player Lionel Messi after the final whistle. It was clear they were unsure of what the future held for them and their club after exiting the popular European football competition in the quarter-final stage. 

I felt Barca’s pain but as I reflected on it, I realised their future would depend on how they handled such an outcome. Stars like Messi – the only player to win Ballon d’Or (Golden Ball) six times – could easily resign from football to avoid more embarrassment. But others can learn from the loss and forge ahead, applying more focus and determination.

No one wants to fail, whether in business, politics, social, spiritual or entertainment spheres. But Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, said: “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” I concur with him that if Barca is content with its failure, then the team has not learnt anything and is not ready to soldier on.

That is why the players – as well as everyone else, both on and off the football field – need focus and determination even if what we see is gloom.

I have learnt that life doesn’t always offer what we want. On March 29, two weeks after the first case of Covid-19 was reported in Kenya, the SHEPHERD staff met at a Nairobi hotel to deliberate over the way forward for the newspaper. The publisher, Francis Ayieko, told us it would be difficult to continue producing the print version of the newspaper while our readers were in lockdown. At the time our online presence was very small and we discussed what we could do to keep in touch with them. 

Finally, we resolved that despite the Covid-19 disruptions, we must continue working in line with our mission. So we made the decision to go big online. The media was awash with stories of doom and gloom, and Mr Ayieko insisted that we should write articles that went behind the dark scenes to bring out the beautiful work God was doing amid and despite the pandemic.

Although the future looked bleak I knew as the SHEPHERD’s editor that bad times don’t last and that whether in Babylon (captivity) or Jerusalem (liberty), we could still shine.

We got down to business armed with focus and determination to implement the publisher’s elaborate plan to make the paper’s digital presence sustainable and brought on board an IT guru and a number of writers and correspondents. Since then, we have been posting stories daily and in response, many of our readers have called in to testify how blessed they have been by our work.

Going back to the Catalans, I like what the defender, Gerard Pique, said after the defeat. He told Reuters that they felt devastated and added that it was not the first, second or even third time in a row that they were exiting the Champions League in an almost similar fashion.

“It is very painful but I hope it serves some purpose… and we all need to reflect deeply. The club needs lots of changes… on a structural level. If new blood needs to come to change course, then I’m not untouchable and will be the first to leave because we’ve hit rock bottom. We all have to reflect about what is the best thing for Barca,” he said.

That was very bold and positive. Indeed whether Christians or not, we should never let failure define us. History is replete with people who failed in various endeavours but refused to throw in the towel. That is what life is about – the ups and downs – but at the end of it all, victory is sure for those who never give up.

Looking back at the SHEPHERD’s transformation since we took that leap of faith, I can surely say “Ebenezer” (meaning thus far the Lord has helped us). We are not there yet but we are on an upward trajectory and I believe very soon, despite the financial challenges and uncertain times, the SHEPHERD will join the league of prominent Christian newspapers and magazines of the world.