Saturday, 14 May 2011

Football you either love it or loathe it!!

Football you either love it or loathe it, and if you are a regular reader of this column you know I love it!! Last night I was at the AGM of the football club that the church I lead helped to set up, the club’s called Crossway FC. And its has been growing and developing over the past 20 yrs and recently received FA Charter Standard Status, only the 2nd club in the Chester and District League to have this accolade. The Charter Standard Scheme is best practice guide that sets standards of coaching, administration and child protection for all clubs outside the Football League and Premier League.  It was great to celebrate the achievements of the season with the many presentations to players and club officials! Talking of celebrations, may I also offer my own to Chester FC on promotion in their very first season. Its great to see this “phoenix club” going from strength to strength in what can only be good for the city. Today was the FA Cup Final Day, the one football match when I was a boy that you could watch on TV that was “live” I have to admit to being slightly more excited than usual, this is because the football team that I have supported since I was a boy, Stoke City FC, were in the final for the very first time in their 148 year long history!  

Now what is it about football at this level that rouses such deep feelings?  Some people say that team sport is ritualised warfare.  I suppose it’s better to hoof a bag of wind around a field for 90 minutes than to lob missiles at one another.  Others see a displaced religion in the game. Certainly when you reflect on football there are some similarities to Christian worship:
Where do large crowds gather to sing and chant?
Churches and football grounds.
Where do large crowds raise their hands in the air in exultation?
Churches and football grounds.
Where do people gather to express their collective aspirations, their feelings and their emotions?
Churches and football grounds.

But of course the resemblance is only superficial.  Bread and wine is not the same as pies and Bovril.  The adulation of our football heroes falls short of worship but only just!  And all our footballers can do is play football to the limit of their ability.  They give us delight when they show their skills, and satisfaction when they win on our behalf.  So what is that makes football so religious – it’s certainly true there are some familiar characteristics with going to a football match and attending church. Where else would you find groups of adults singing and gathering together to worship? Where can you belong to a crowd of people who are all following the same thing?. We are making the players into idols, and the ‘professional game’ some would say is in crisis. The amount of money invested in the top clubs is immoral and can sometimes make the players and managers seem “god like” in their adoration and following. Don’t get me wrong I love football and I was really hoping Stoke win the FA Cup, but it is not the No 1 thing in my life; For me there is only person who is really worth following and worshipping, he is Jesus Christ, but I do think the church could learn a thing or to in how to attract more supporters and attendees from this beautiful game!

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