When Football Prays

I grew up loving glamorous football stars – Lee Sharpe, Chris Waddle, Jeremy Goss – these were my favourite people in the world.  As a young Christian who loved football, it was pretty demoralising to accept that these two sides of my life were never destined to find a meeting point.  That's just how it was: Football didn't do God – Maradona excepting – and God seemed to be alright about it.

Javier Hernandez Man utd praying
So it's been quite a mind-bending few years, since Maria has dragged me back into the Beautiful Game: Hernandez on his knees before kickoff; pre-match prayer meetings at several clubs; Berbatov reading his Bible in the dressing room etc.  I mean, for Heaven's sake, the last thing Wayne Rooney does before going on the pitch is to go into the massage room to pray!

And this week it has spilled over in a much more public way.  Fabrice Muamba (another Christian, before you ask), had a heart-attack during Bolton's game with Spurs last Saturday.

Defoe Gallas Vandervaat

Within seconds, players were praying, and after a few hours, as the magnitude of the situation struck home, I was reading tweets like these:

Jack Wilshere: 'Everyone keep praying!'
Wayne Rooney: 'Praying for him and his family.'
Kyle Walker: 'Doesn't matter who you support. Doesn't matter if you aren't a football fan. Doesn't matter if you aren't religious. Pray for Fabrice Muamba.'

The outpouring of support was so explicit in its constant references to prayer that I found myself halfway between continuing to pray for Muamba, and being overwhelmed by the fact that in the middle of a tragic event the footballers of the nations have been leading us in prayer.

Sunderland ChelseaBlackburn



Realmadrid Barcelona

These last two photos: Ronaldo & Messi, neither of whom know Muamba, passing on best wishes.  This is how we – the Church, and Humanity – should react to suffering. 'When one part suffers, we all suffer,' and when we 'bear each others burdens, we fulfil the law of Christ.'

How to be RICH!

We're off to America (in case you hadn't heard), and that means starting from scratch again: stuffing as many of our favourite books, clothes & Dimitar Berbatov memorabilia into suitcases as we can, and hopping the Pond.

Maria has already gone – 9 days ago – and I have been left  with the job of vacating our flat (I'll be lodging with friends until my visa comes).  One of the great things about moving out of anywhere is the chance to evaluate your possessions; to decide the degree to which your future life and exploits depend on them.  This winnowing process is amplified by the added limitations of transporting those few things with you over an ocean: bookcases, mixing bowls, and musical instruments need not apply.

I finally handed over the keys to our flat yesterday. It's called The Thimble, and is well named: a small, one bed, one bath apartment, with a tiny boxroom and a kitchen-lounge.  Even so, it was far from 'full' – we have not been particularly wealthy of late, and such spare income as we've had has tended to go on the odd 2 for £12 meal at ASKItalian, rather than the accumulation of stuff.

We were kind of hoping to sell as much of our furniture as possible and maybe raise a couple of hundred quid or so, then give away the rest.  Then at church on Sunday, it was suggested to me to ring a fella called Owen (a bit of a local legend) who collects and distributes furniture in our bit of Cornwall.  When I did, Owen said to me:

Yesterday I went to see a lady, to ask what she needed.
When I got there, I saw that she had a plastic garden chair and, well, that was it.

Suddenly, deciding whether to ask £20 or £25 for our sofa didn't seem like a real question at all.  I've been 'poor' ever since I left uni and, with a whole flat's-worth of 'you can't take it with you', became instantaneously rich.

I've known for a while that, in the Bible, the word 'poor' is not used to describe those on low incomes or who don't have much.  Instead, it is used of people who, in order to live, are dependent on support (ie. widows, orphans, the disabled etc.).  I knew that.  But I'd forgotten to make the obvious application: I am rich.