armchair supporters

Last Friday evening I watched the England v Algeria game in the World Cup, sat at home on the sofa. I have to confess that I did not sit in silence (even though that may have been the best way to watch the match). I made a number of ‘constructive comments’ in the general direction of the TV. I made comments about the importance of the players passing the ball to each other, about the importance of tackling the opposition when they had the ball, about kicking the ball into the opposition’s goal rather than just in the general direction, and more besides.

Now I do realise that my comments directed at the television do not make any difference to the outcome of the match. I understand that the players and manager cannot hear my comments. I know that it amused my son, who was sitting in the room with me. But I could not help myself. I was very keen for England to win, to play well, even just to score, and I expressed that passion.

This reminds me of one of the more enigmatic verses in the Bible.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 

(Hebrews 12:1)

It won’t surprise you to know that this verse follows Hebrews chapter 11. It’s important when there is a ‘therefore’ to discover what it’s there for. It refers back to the preceding verses, which are about great heroes and heroines of the faith right from the earliest chapter of Genesis onwards. These are the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ referred to in verse one of chapter 12.

It seems to me that these people of faith throughout history are like I was when watching the England match. They might well be watching us while sitting on sofa-shaped clouds and seeing what we do on a heavenly 42 foot Plasma Screen TV. They are shouting encouragement at us, offering words of advice and wanting us to succeed in our journey of faith, to run and finish the race. We can’t hear them, they do not affect how we live or what they do, but they are still passionate about seeing us ‘throw off everything that hinders’ and ‘run with perseverance’.

I hope that the England team know how so many of us want them to succeed. I hope that knowing that encourages them to do well in their next game. I hope that knowing that the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ is doing the same for us is an encouragement to you, as much as it is for me.

You know that football is taking over your life when…

You video games of Subbuteo for post game analysis
You refer to the sofa as a “dugout”
You can recall the names of all of the players who have played in winning World Cup teams, but can’t remember your best friend’s name.

Murphy’s laws for football fans:
If you are 2-0 up with ten minutes to play you’ll be lucky to hang on for a draw
If in the first round of any cup you beat the defending champions you will lose in the next round to a bunch of no-hopers
Injury time is about 3 minutes longer when you are winning than when you are losing


Two fans were walking towards the stadium to watch the cup final. One said to the other: “I wish I’d brought the piano to the match.”
The second one stopped. “Why would you want to bring a piano to the cup final?”
The first fan smiled sheepishly. “Because I left the tickets on it.”

(more footie-related jokes available at

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