Revd Jackie

Rev. Jackie Bullen

It’s only a game!

Football – the season is now well underway and whether you’re a fan who just has to watch your team play every week or whether you’re someone who just likes to keep a weather eye on where the Posh are in the league there are things I think we do well to remember when thinking about the subject of football.

Firstly, I could say that it's only a game. I’ve heard people say “what’s all the fuss about? At the end of the day, it's 22 men kicking a bag of wind around a field”.

Yes, the players may have names you recognise or maybe not. Yes, you might know their faces from TV advertising or watching them play. I agree that for many of us it's beautiful, exciting and enraging; but it is after all only a game.

In an increasingly divided world, where many of our leaders are selfish and incompetent, where the environment is in crisis, where the gap between rich and poor grows daily ... in a world where all these things and more are true, we could argue that it's still only a game.

But, secondly, I would suggest that it's also never only a game.

Not to the people for whom this is a job and a lifetime's work.

Not to the communities where sport is a much-needed focal point of cohesion and unity and hope. Not for those of us who follow our teams for 9 months of the season.

Not for those of us who find a kind of beauty and transcendence in what people can do on the sports field that makes us a little more awestruck at what God has created people capable of doing. Some players seem to have a super human strength of body, mind and spirit that goes beyond what we might expect of them. They show skill and talent and they thrill the watching crowd.

And not to those for whom supporting their team was handed down the family line like an heirloom, whose most precious memories of family growing up are of huddling around the TV to watch games or of standing on the terraces on a Saturday afternoon in the cold and wet next to a beloved family member or friend.

If we can hold these two together, then maybe we’ve understood something about human beings just a bit more. Winners or losers, people will take away with them memories from a match or tournament that will last a lifetime.

So please, if football isn’t your thing, do not be tempted to despise, mock, criticise or adopt a morally superior attitude as if you think your interests or sports are better and do not be tempted to tell others that it doesn't really matter .

We all know football is only a game and whilst that's true, it's also true that for many of us it's never only a game.

Watching a game can bring back memories of special family times with our loved ones no longer with us, or represent a glimpse of being gloriously lost in a moment of hope and expectation, in a world which seems increasingly out of control.

And this, of course, goes for many other sports or hobbies too.

God Bless