It is such hard work for me to get my head around the fact that Christianity is really real and not some type of fantasy that floats around silently in my head.
If it isn’t something that I can pick and choose at depending on my mood, if it is reality then that should colour all areas of my life which means that it has consequences for what it means to follow football or support Tottenham Hotspur
My love of football isn’t something that I can relegate to relaxation or harmless entertainment, much as I love zoning out in front of a match or talking about things on Facebook.
These are real men chasing a ball around a real football ground in a real city somewhere in the world. This game isn’t happening on TV, it is happening in real life. There are consequences. I choose to invest my time in watching a game instead of doing something else. My emotions can be lifted or cast down which might put me in a great mood or a grumpy mood. That mood might have consequences for my wife or the person in the shop who I might be grumpy with.
Tonight on my way into Galway I bumped into a lady from our church who said that she wouldn’t be able to go to home group tonight. I told her that I wouldn’t be at home group either as I was off to the pub to watch the Spurs vs Manchester City.
I don’t feel any particular sense of guilt of going to the pub and don’t think I sinned by having a pint of Stormy Port at the bar instead of cup of milky tea here.
However, there is a sense that my addiction to football might not be particularly healthy.
Way back in the summer I thought that this would be the season when I finally had enough of football. The money involved in Gareth Bale’s transfer seemed to be immoral to me. How can one man be valued at so much? There is the whole business of television rights, and teams changing kits and the diving or players being mercenaries.
I was talking to a Brazilian student on Sunday morning and she was saying that many people in Brazil are angry at the amount of money being spent on this years world cup when it could be used for so many other things.
FIFA seem like a creepy money making machine with all the money from advertisers and official partners.
But I haven’t time to go into all the complexities of that tonight as its late and I don’t know enough about it.
Spurs got beaten by a very impressive looking Manchester City team who are playing very attractive, attacking football. This famous quote from Danny Blanchflower comes to mind:-
“The game is about glory. It’s about doing things in style, with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.”
There has been a touch of glory in the way City have been playing this season.
But where does glory fit into things such as links to oppressive governments and human rights abuses?
Can we separate our support for a team from our support for the chairman?
Maybe I’ve got a case of sour grapes for if Spurs had won tonight I doubt I would have been writing this blog. We’re owned by a billionaire tax exile so I’m not sure that I can take the moral high ground either.
At the start of the season I said wasn’t going to get into football, but gradually I’ve become addicted.
Mainly it is because I have been lonely and getting into football has given me a reason to get out into Galway and meet people in a way that I find comfortable and enjoy.
I can admire the weight of Kun Aguero’s finish for City’s first goal or enjoy the tactical thinking from the managers and debate what is wrong with the Spurs midfield.
There is a dark side as well though.
I don’t know how to feel about the race for winning and getting the Champions League which is the race for money and power. The old idea of clubs playing for glory seems to have gone and now teams seem to be more like brands looking for customers and new markets. Football clubs seem to be primarily about branding and selling themselves to the global market rather than any old fashioned notions we have of ‘glory’.
If I don’t like using Amazon or Tesco because of the way they have concentrated power to make money, why should I tolerate it with the teams I support?
If I try to buy local with my vegetables or am concerned about Fair Trade coffee why should my attitude to a football club be any different?
Should I try supporting my local football team instead of the global brands?
If I am concerned that farmers get paid fair wages for growing bananas should be concerned that people building football stadiums in Qatar for World Cups aren’t treated like slaves?
Danny Blanchflower might have said its about the glory, but it is more about the brand and money these days. I’m not sure where that leaves me as a supporter or as Christian.