I’ve been pondering for a couple of weeks now.
What have I been pondering? I’ve been pondering what “Football’s coming home” actually means (from the iconic England anthem Three Lions written for the Euro 96 tournament by Frank Skinner, David Baddiel and the Lightning Seeds). I know the sentiment that it is invoking, but it actually doesn’t make any sense.
“Of course it doesn’t,” I hear you retort, “it’s poetic.” Yes, I accept that. But the message of the song seems to be that football has been away from home for a long time and now it’s coming back. Does that mean that in all that time football matches played in parks with jumpers for goalposts, in non-league grounds, in League grounds and in big Premiership stadia weren’t properly football?
Yes, I am being petty and pedantic. But it’s my blog, so I reserve the right to be petty and pedantic when it suits me. But thinking about Three Lions got me pondering the use of other songs in sport. Why do we play national anthems before some sporting occasions, and not before others? There were no national anthems at Wimbledon, for example.
And why do England Rugby Union fans sing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot – a song with its roots in slavery (if ever there is a country that should not adopt such a song it’s England with its historical involvement in the Transatlantic Slave Trade)? I read on the BBc website that it started when England Player Martin Offiah scored (he was nicknamed ‘Chariots Offiah’) but does its current use promote cultural awareness and diversity or is it inappropriate?
And then there’s the use of Abide With Me at Wembley, sung especially before the FA Cup Final. It was written in 1847 by Devon vicar Henry Lyte, and was first sung at the 1927 FA Cup Final. Apparently it was chosen because King George V had been asked what he would like sung and this was Queen Mary’s favourite hymn. It has been sung ever since. But what has a hymn about God’s presence with us in the darkest of circumstances have to do with a game of football?
I suspect that in most cases the singing is less to do with the lyrical content and more to do with the communal event, the camaraderie of corporate singing, tradition, and the fact that they all have good, memorable tunes.
On Saturday I was Inducted at the church I am now serving in Plymouth and because of the Covid-19 restrictions we were unable to sing together (which I found ironic bearing in mind how loudly 90,000 fans sang Three Lions together in Wembley Stadium the following evening). At the end we used a video of a song that has been written to the tune of Abide With Me. It feels like a manifesto for our church. Have a listen / watch. It’s excellent. It’s a song I can wholeheartedly get behind and look forward to being able to sing with gusto very soon with the rest of the church I serve. Then we seek God’s help to put the words into action!
Be blessed, be a blessing