While being a keen supporter of Doncaster Rovers, I have to admit that my technical understanding of football could be written on the back a postage stamp – but whatever our understanding none of us can deny that the World Cup is well under way.
England haven’t had the best time of it, it’s fair to say. We want our team to do well; it engenders a sense of national pride for all the right reasons. It gives us a sense of well-being, and whatever the outcome we should and will get behind them, cheer them on the way and be proud of what they’ve tried to achieve.
Previous football tournaments, as we know, have sometimes been marked by violent clashes against rival teams and it’s sad that this World Cup has been marked by severe violence between protesters and the Brazilian police.
But tournaments are more likely to be marked by people getting together to watch and either celebrate or commiserate the final result.
Walking around my own village the day after the first England match and there were obvious signs of people having partied the night away.
Getting people together to watch football, or anything else for that matter, is a good thing. It helps promote a sense of community and belonging, it reduces the sense and reality of isolation, it promotes mental, spiritual and physical well-being, and it lifts the heart and brings joy and pleasure.
It doesn’t mean that in community we agree all the time.
If you listen to supporters discussing football you soon learn that they don’t agree on how the team played or who did what and when and why.
There’ll be different perspectives and ways of viewing things other than perhaps that the referee is always wrong. Joining together, being in community grows a strong sense of identity, purpose, mutual support, encouragement and nurture.
Christians and other faith groups have a strong sense of identity and purpose as they meet together on a Sunday or their own Sabbath or holy day and while they don’t always agree on the basic tenants of their belief there is nonetheless mutual support, encouragement and nurture when they meet together for dialogue and fellowship.
We are blessed in Doncaster and across the nation that in spite of religious/political conflicts that we witness throughout the world, in spite of terrorist attacks in our own country, faith groups epitomise the very best of what it means to get together in community, rejoicing in each other’s company, respecting with integrity each other’s belief system.
Whether you are a person of faith or no faith, a football supporter or not, let’s simply enjoy each other’s company.
It will no doubt make your community, our world, a much better and happier place to live. An ideal I know but surely worth giving a try.
* Peter Burrows, Bishop of Doncaster