my tenuous link to Leicester City

shocked

Photo by permission from http://www.sxc.hu/profile/bigevil600

So the impossible has happened. Leicester City won the Premier League this season after almost being relegated last season, and being most pundits’ favourite for relegation this time around. At the start of the season the bookmakers were giving odds of 5000-1 for them winning the Premier League. This is being proclaimed as the most astonishing sporting story of all time. They might be right.

I don’t support Leicester City, but as a supported of Ipswich Town I can relate to the surprise that they have been so successful. My only link to Leicester is that about 10 years ago a friend, who was a season-ticket holder at Leicester City, lent his tickets to me so I could take my son to watch a football match (my friend was unable to go). He did warn us that his ticket was in the rowdy section of the Leicester fans, but it was too generous an offer to turn down so we went.

Two things in particular come to mind when I remember that football match. The first was about the Leicester City tradition of a huntsman in full regalia playing a rallying cry on a hunting horn as the players ran onto the pitch. That still happens, and it still strikes me as somewhat incongruous. It is a rousing sound, but Leicester City’s nickname is ‘The Foxes’ so to have a huntsman playing a hunting horn seems to me to be more likely to rouse the opposition who are there to hunt the foxes.

The second thing was that although we were in the rowdy section of the crowd we were on the edge of it. Most of the chants and songs were generated (in the mystical way in which they happen at a football ground) from in the middle of the section and the rest of the ground joined in. But just in front of us was a young man who obviously fancied himself as a chant-generator. When it was a bit quiet he made us jump by standing up and shouting, “Who are you? Who are you? Who are you?”

Nobody joined in.

It was quite embarrassing.

But it didn’t deter him. A little later on he stood up again and sang a chant at the top of his voice (I can’t remember it) and kept repeating it in the hope that others would join in.

But nobody did.

It was cringe-worthy.

And yet through the whole match he kept on at it. He did not give up. Perhaps he thought that eventually he would wear down the resistance of the crowd and that they would join in with him. Or maybe he thought that if he was good enough he’d get invited into the middle of the rowdy section and be allowed to join in with them. Or it’s possible (and this is what I think is the truth) that he didn’t care whether anyone joined in with him – he just wanted to express his support for Leicester City at the top of his voice.

When I have heard football crowds chanting and singing I sometimes remember that young man.And I have stopped being embarrassed for him. Now I admire his persistence. I admire his loyalty. I admire his desire to express himself without worrying what other people are thinking. And I wish Christians would worship God more like that.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Some people won’t be on the pitch…

Gross generalisation the first: there is a sense of collective disappointment across the country because FIFA is not holding a World Cup Finals in England for at least the next 20 years.

Gross generalisation the second: the sense of collective disappointment is concentrated among the males in the population.

Gross generalisation the third: lots of people are blaming the media (The Sunday Times and BBC’s Panorama) for us not being awarded the Finals in 2018 because they ‘exposed’ alleged corruption within FIFA.

If, in reading these gross generalisations, you found yourself thinking, ‘I don’t agree with that statement,’ it confirms their identity as gross generalisations. If you found yourself thinking, ‘I agree with these statements,’ it confirms that they are true. Either way I win. Woohoo.

In churches we are not usually crushed in the stampede to volunteer to help out with different activities. I have a dream that one day it will be like some of my primary school lessons where every child had their hand in the air desperate for the teacher to pick them.

Let’s magnify that dream a lot. What would the world be like if countries spent as much time and effort  trying to eradicate poverty, hunger, homelessness, deprivation, people-trafficking, unfair trade practices, exploitation, bonded labour… as they have done trying to be awarded the World Cup Finals?

Is that just a dream? Is it only going to happen in a parallel Universe? Or can we make it happen through prayer, campaigning, lobbying, and action? If you are on Facebook and want to make a start, sign up for Superbadger from Tearfund.

One last thing. Qatar 2022???? See this video for an example of the quality of Qatari football.

armchair supporters 2

I watched the football last night on the telly. It was very frustrating. England drew 0-0 with Montenegro. They did not show much invention and some players seemed incapable of doing the simple things like passing the ball to a team mate and keeping the ball on the pitch.

I have discovered that I am incapable of watching a match on TV quietly. Poor passes were met with groans that later became howls of anguish as they kept occurring. Th lack of invention and general refusal of the team to attack in numbers led to complaints that were lobbed at the telly.

I know that they could not hear me, because if they had heard me they would have done things differently. But it did not stop me talking and complaining at the telly. In the end I was asked to get a thesaurus by my son, who was fed up with me saying ‘woeful’. I used other words as well after that.

But what is it that makes me want to express myself in this way to an inanimate object? I reckon part of it is cathartic. I am keen for England to play well, score goals and win matches and when they do not it disappoints and upsets me. It may be better for me to express that at the telly rather than bottle it up. Part of it may be a desire to be at the match myself, when I could join in with the crowd. Part of it may be that I am a sad individual.

Do you feel the same frustrations when your attempts to talk about your faith fall on apparently deaf ears? I have heard several stories recently that have encouraged me that while it may not seem that anything is being received, actually what is being said and the way we are is noticed and makes a difference to people. And we have the advantage that God’s Spirit is also at work in those with whom we are sharing our faith – taking the words we say and the things we do, the person we are and allowing them to germinate in someone’s life like seeds sown in the autumn germinate over winter and we do not see the shoots of growth for a long time.

I seem to remember some research recently that suggests that the average length of time it takes for someone to come to faith is five years and they need many encounters with Christians who will share what they believe in words and actions during that time.

So be encouraged, keep going. These are people God loves not inanimate tellies!

Bob was tired but wanted to watch the match so he plonked himself in front of the telly and tried to stay awake. The first half was boring and eventually he nodded off and slept through the rest of the game, and through the whole night.

In the morning Bob’s wife woke him: “Wake up Bob, it’s seven!”

“Woah!” exclaimed Bob, “Who scored the goals?”

extra bonus post

A friend of mine (thanks Nick) sent me this picture from England’s World Cup training camp. Caption is underneath. Any alternative suggestions?

Fabio: “I said, ‘I need to discuss tactics with you Wayne,’ and he said, ‘I don`t really like mints boss'”

OR

Fabio: “Whatta you thinka of my brillianta idea: ifa we are alosing against Germany I willa bring on Heskeya so they thinka we don’t care. It willa lull them into a false sensea of security and then Heskey tears off his face and reveals Geoffa Hurst. Itsa like Mission Impossiblea”

Others: [thinks] “It’s gonna be Mission Impossible all right. He’s lost it!”

reacting to Rooney reacting to the fans – but not just a blog about football


“Nice to hear your home fans booing you – that’s loyal supporters,” was how England’s Wayne Rooney reacted to hearing boos from the England supporters following a very poor England performance against Algeria.

I can understand how he felt. The team did not play well. Individuals played badly. He was obviously very disappointed with what had happened and how people had reacted. But when you know you have done badly you want people to encourage you not to put you down. You want to feel that people appreciate that you tried even if you did not succeed. You may feel that people were being disloyal by booing.

However… (and I hope you expected the ‘however’) I think Wayne’s comments reveal something else. To me they suggest that he did not realise how much the performance (or lack of it) meant to the supporters. He did not realise how much it had cost so many of them to be there. He did not understand that he and his team mates are living the dream for many people – paid a fortune to play football. He failed to grasp what it is like to be someone who believes in the passion, ability and honour of the England football team and feel let down when it does not seem to be there in the players they support.

Churches are always in danger of having a similar attitude. We may be tempted to think that people ought to come to us. We may be tempted to think that people ought to support what we are doing. We may forget that people can feel let down if the church fails to deliver what it promises. We may believe that if we turn up week by week everything will go well for us and ‘adequate’ will suffice. We may wonder why people complain about what we do or how we do it.

If we find ourselves in that situation I think we should do what Wayne should have done. Stop. Listen. Reflect. Think. Ask the Boss before reacting. Is there truth in what we are hearing? Have we taken people for granted? Are we forgetting our privileged position as people who have been given the most wonderful message in the world and need to show it, live it, tell it?

A Scottish footballer died and arrived at the gates of heaven where an angel awaited him.

“Now,” said the angel, “before you enter here, is there anything that happened to you on earth upon which you would like your mind set at rest?”

The footballer hesitated for a moment and then said: “There is one thing. I used to play for St Mirren and in the Scottish Cup Final we were playing Rangers and I scored two goals. I am sure one of them was off-side and I used my hand to control the ball before I scored the second one. We won 2-1 and won the Cup, but it has always bothered me since then. I can’t get it out of my mind.”

“Oh,” replied the angel, “We know all about that up here. We see everything. But don’t worry, that will not stop you coming into heaven.”

The footballer was immensely relieved. “Oh, thank you so much, St Peter,” he said. “That is a real relief.”

“Enjoy heaven, my child,” the angel replied. He paused and then continued. “By the way, I’m not St Peter.”

“Then who are you?” asked the footballer. “I thought St Peter met everyone at the pearly gates.”

“St Peter’s having a day off today,” said the angel. “I’m St Mirren.”