Thursday, June 17, 2010

We don't do religion

Wayne Rooney was cut off mid-interview yesterday, while discussing his faith. The English striker began explaining why he wears a cross and rosary beads, when Mark Whittle, head of media relations for the English Football Association, stopped him. “We don’t do religion”, the official declared.

Well, Mr. Whittle, I beg to differ. Besides all those players who praise G-d after scoring a goal, soccer is a religion in itself. 

You soccer people live by a strict and demanding code. Itumuleng Khune ( for the soccer-challenged, that’s Bafana’s goalie) can tell you what happens to someone who breaks one of those laws- even if it’s in the heat of the moment. 

Then there’s your dress code. Players (are they the priests in the temple of foot ball?) must wear the right uniforms, and all self-respecting supporters dress pretty much the same as they flaunt their team’s colours at games. 

Professional matches must be played at official stadiums. You could play six-a-side at your local school field, but it won’t have a fraction of the appeal of a pro-match and it certainly won’t attract global attention. 

Kick off at a game can’t be late and play may not stretch on longer than the legally allocated time. Fans know that they need to be there when the whistle blows or they will miss the action.

So, Mr. Whittle, you guys do religion. Big time. 

In fact, our religion could learn a thing or two from the beautiful game. We could learn to wear our Jewish uniforms with pride- even should our team lose a game. We could learn to appreciate that the game of life cannot work without a clear, unbending set of rules. Soccer’s pilgrims should inspire us to get together at our spiritual stadiums, because playing alone at home doesn’t grab  G-d’s attention in the same way the “real game” at shul does. We also need to learn that the team that plays better on the day, wins. Plus, we can learn how to focus on the next shot- not the scoreboard- while on the field. And we can appreciate that every move we make on the field carries a consequence for when the game is over. Lastly, we need to learn to be enthusiastic about the game we’re playing.

When we will live our religion as the soccer stars live theirs. the whole world will win gold.

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