Tag Archives: Football

Religion- it’s a game of two halves (and no goals)

Today’s Times newspaper carried a wonderful write up of the inter-faith football (or soccer if you prefer) match between Christian vicars and Imams which fittingly ended in a scoreless drawn. HRH The Prince of Wales was on hand to present the trophy to both team captains after he had witnesses what he described as “quite a match” in a stadium in the Turkish district of Berlin. the idea of pitting Christians against Muslims was tried out in a charity match in Leicester in 2005 and was brought to Berlin by the local Anglican chaplain, the Rev Christopher Jage-Bowler. In the end the Christians were saved from  defeat by their 51 year-old goalkeeper- at least he had more claim than Maradona as the hand of God.

For the full story see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article6194620.ece


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eternal-flame-at-anfieldAt 3.06pm today, silence will be kept in the cities of Nottingham, Sheffield and Liverpool to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster where 96 Liverpool supporters lost their lives for simply going to watch a football match. For a preview of the day  from the BBC news pages see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7999279.stm. On this morning’s Thought for the Day slot on BBC Radio 4, the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones, spoke about the raw sense of loss and grief that is still very tangible in Liverpool as he prepares for this afternoon’s memorial service. A few years ago one of my favourite bands of the day wrote a song about the tragedy of Hillsborough and they were very clear about where the blame for this lay. The song was entitled South Yorkshire Mass Murderer and singled out the Senior Police officer running operations for that day, with lyrics including “There’s nothing I could ever say that could really take the pain away”.But today is not a day for blame but a day to remember and commemorate the lives of those lost. But that sense of raw grief and emptiness is what many people will feel today- players, supporters, survivors, relatives and friends of those who lost their lives. Sometimes as Christians we feel there is so little we can say or do in the face of what seems unjust, genuine tragedy- but when can pray. To see the names and faces of those lost in the disaster to help you  pray for them by name click here http://www.liverpoolfc.tv/news/drilldown/N163964090414-2356.htm

Today the great hymn abide with me will be sung at Anfield and our prayer today surely is that the 96 will indeed be abiding in and with God as they are remembered . their deaths changed the face of football and, like the eternal flame burning outside the stadium at Anfield, their memories will never fade.

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The Damned Life of Brian

damned-unitedI don’t know about you, but I am really looking forward to seeing the film The Damned United based on David Peace’s book about Brian Clough’s ill-fated 44 day reign as manager of Leeds United in 1974. Back in those days I loved Leeds United, the greatest team in the land;and I loved Brian Clough- all charisma, swagger and confidence. When Clough was appointed manager of Leeds it seemed the perfect union- the best team now lead by the best coach, surely nothing would stop them from sweeping all before them. But it didn’t work  out and the dream partnership became a nightmare in need of a quickie divorce with neither party able to stand each other. So much promise and hope was sacrificed on the alter of ego and mutual loathing. Isn’t that a little like what we experience in life as well. Partnerships in our professional or personal lives that seem to have everything going for them yet somehow end in disappointment and at worst descend into hatred and bitterness. The problem with Clough is that he was so self confident he seemed that he didn’t need or want anybody else. In a conversation in Peace’s novel Clough mentions that he doesn’t believe in God…he believes in Brian Clough instead and Clough’s story fueled by a strong personal ambition to prove the establishment wrong for overlooking his talent is a cautionary tale of what happens when we let ourselves be driven by the need to show’em what we’re made of.

Clough was an enigma. An intelligent incisive manager, an opinionated political animal, a supreme tactician and leader of men and a real telegenic entertainer. He took second rate players and sleeping football clubs and made them real contenders. He was a giant of the game who we miss and whose like we will never see again a flawed legend and an inspiration. I wonder if even he could have taken that ramshackled and dysfunctional group and turned them into advocates for a new faith that would sweep the world. To paraphrase another Life of Brian, Old big ‘ed wasn’t the Messiah he was just a very self-possessed boy. But then again would Jesus have splashed out £1million for Trevor Francis?

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