Overheard on the terraces ….
“We are gathered here today, as we do every weekend, in worship of our religion that goes by the name of football or, as it is called in certain parishes, soccer.
It is an auspicious time as the great four-yearly pilgrimage is underway. Pilgrims from all corners of the world are meeting together in a series of ceremonies leading to the declaration of the most worthy team on earth.
Football is a religion experienced through live worship on the terraces and TV. We stand in unison, arms outstretched, praying that our team will get the heavenly inspiration and the on-field decisions that propel us beyond what the bookies are predicting. We know that our voices will be heard in support of our team.
Some doubters question the value of our religion against the mainstream churches.
But does not our religion nourish the soul and motivate the body? And does not it encourage a sense of teamwork and sportsmanship?
Does it not teach us the humility that comes with a complete drubbing from some underrated foreign team?
Does it not create unshakable bonds between peoples around the world and between parents and children gathered in stadia and lounge rooms far and wide?
Certainly, our spiritual leader and his inner sanctum at FIFA, like other religious leaders, have shown human frailties that are under investigation from secular authorities. We must all deplore these loudly, but they are failings of organisations and individuals, not of the religion itself.
Certainly, our host nation has spent mightily on glorious sporting cathedrals, while the needs of the poor have remained unaddressed. But is this weakness not in common with other religions?
Certainly, the forces of mammon encroach on the ceremonies with monotonous frequency in the form of adverts and sponsor messages. But does this not enable the viewing of our ceremonies around the world free-to-air?
And so, our religion transcends nationalities and belief systems to create a global source of common values for good. It gives purpose to our lives by connecting our spirit with millions of others in the joint chants that crescendo with the cry of ‘goal!’
And it is followed by 3.5 billion people from all continents such that we can confidently sing, ‘We will never walk alone’.
Please all now join me in saying together our ritual chant:
Our team which art in a heavenly league,
Hallowed is our country name and team colours.
Our victory will surely come,
From what is done on the earthly pitch,
As it is in the heavenly prose of our national journalists.
Give us this day our daily team update and gossip,
And forgive us our supporting excesses,
As we forgive other supporters’ excesses against us.
And lead us not into temptation of false belief,
But deliver us from national humiliation.
For ours is the rightful victory,
The bragging power, and the reflected glory,
For this world cup, if not forever.