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"We have to keep politics and religion out of football and sport, that is very important.”
These were the words today from Michel Platini, President of UEFA, European football’s governing body. This was a statement made in response to recent events including the the bombs sent to the Celtic Manager, Neil Lennon.
I would like to first of all say that he is right to condone this kind of behaviour. But although this has been done by Christians, it is not Christian behaviour. At no point in the Gospels does Jesus tell his disciples to attempt to ‘maim and kill’ anyone they disliked. In fact, Jesus teaches the opposite. ‘Love your enemy’.
It is not so long ago that football hooliganism was causing horrific casualties every week, and it still happens occasionally. Was the the fault of football, which encourages fans to support a certain team? Was it the fault of the footballers? No. It was quite rightly the blamed on the perpetrators – the football hooligans.
So in this case, is it the fault of religion, or those who perpetrated the crime?
I am going to go as far as to say that this type of behaviour has no place in Christianity, so rather than focusing on removing religion from football, why not focus on keeping this kind of behaviour out of religion?
Why not work to use religion as a force for good in Football? There are many organisations out there that recognise the importance of the link between the two. Organisations such as Christians in Sport.
Religion should be kept out of Football? Try telling this to Christian professional footballers Linvoy Primus of Portsmouth FC and Darren Moore of Barnsley FC; They set up the organisation ‘Faith and Football’. Here is a quote from their website, http://www.faithandfootball.org.uk/:
‘Faith & Football was started in 2002 by Christian professional footballers Linvoy Primus, Portsmouth FC and Darren Moore who now plays for Barnsley FC. Along with Mick Mellows, the Charity Director, they decided that as Christians they wanted to serve their local community by helping young people and their families, be positive role models and help make a real difference!
From that simple beginning Faith & Football has grown so that it now provides a range of community, educational and overseas programmes using football as a platform for relationship building. We have mobilised the Church to meet and serve people where they are in life’s journey and to make Jesus’ message of hope known to all.
A team of 4 full time staff members and over 150 enthusiastic Christian Faith & Football volunteers in Portsmouth, Birmingham and Plymouth faithfully serve their respective communities by delivering our programmes. Christian professional footballers support and participate in everything we undertake.’
Would they agree that religion should be kept out of football?
I would say that if Football authorities want to get rid of violence in football, they should actually encourage people to read the gospels. Where in the ‘Love thy neighbour’, ‘Love your enemy’, or ‘Do not judge’, does that suggest sending letterbox bombs to people?
Jesus is not the problem. He’s the solution.