Monday, June 17, 2024


All photos courtesy of Unsplash 

It seems that sport and in particular football, namely soccer, has taken on the form of religion.  Someone once remarked that his local football club was his church and the manager was his god.  It is remarkable that chasing a ball around a pitch should bring about such great excitement but when all sport is analysed in its basic form it all seems absurd.  Years ago things were not taken quite so seriously and sometimes whole teams were reluctant to even turn up to play. 

In 1891 Blackburn Rovers were due to play Burnley but the pitch was covered with snow as it had snowed heavily for three hours before kick off.  Very few spectators had turned up and the Blackburn Rovers’ team did not really want to continue with the match.  In the first half they did not put in much effort and by half-time were down three nil.  The interval seemed to go on for much longer than usual but eventually the Blackburn Rovers’ team turned out but as they straggled onto the pitch there were only seven of them.  The others had decided not to bother.  Ten minutes later the Rovers’ captain created a violent incident and was sent off.  This led to the other Rovers’ players deciding to do the same and walked off the pitch. This just left their goalkeeper someone by the name of Mr Arthur who rather heroically stayed at his post.

All photos courtesy of Unsplash 

The referee who was named Mr Clegg waited to see if any Rovers’ players might return but after some minutes there was no sign of them and so play resumed.  The Burnley team bore down on the Rovers’ goal and it would come as no surprise that in no time at all the ball was in the back of the net.  The goalkeeper insisted that they were off side and that the goal should not have counted.  This seemed to be accepted by the referee but then he decided to abandon the game. The match that had started with selfish reluctance had ended in chaotic shambles.  

We might think this is an isolated example and restricted to the sports arena, but so often in life similar things occur.  We can too easily act selfishly wanting the best for ourselves and an easier life and using any method to obtain it.  We too often think of ourselves first, then we may have concern for our family or friends but more than that very few would bother and as for God so often He does not feature in our thoughts at all nor influence our behaviour.  Selfish reluctance to do anything that does not profit us can lead to a life which is unfulfilled and declines into oblivion.  

All photos courtesy of Unsplash 

This is so different from the attitude of the Scottish athlete, Eric Liddell, a great sportsman who played rugby for Scotland and ran in the 1924 Olympic Games.  He was willing to sacrifice the opportunity to have a gold medal because principle was more important than status.  He wanted to honour God by obeying His commandments and so refused to run on a Sunday.  This caused consternation amongst the British team and organisers but he was insistent.  He would not compromise his Christian principles by running on a Sunday in his usual race.  Eventually a place was found for him to run in the 400 yards, which was run on a different day, and so he won his gold medal.  It was remarkable.  Later he went to China as a missionary and was interred by the Japanese where he died of a brain tumour in one of their camps.  The end was not sadness but glory.  He believed and every Christian also believes that in Christ death is not the end but the gateway to Heaven.  It is to be absent from the body and present with the Lord.  Liddell’s refusal to compromise principle revealed his true Christian faith.  He has been rewarded in the presence of God. May that be our blessing.

All photos courtesy of Unsplash 

Written by PAUL YOUNG 

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