This weeks Offside View ponders who the supreme being is actually supporting at the 2010 World Cup.
Sportsmen have always been a religious bunch, although usually it’s manifested in them believing they are indeed the messiah.
This World Cup the bar seems to have been raised with religious signals almost becoming a form of Tourettes for some players. Then there’s the rosary beads of many including Wayne Rooney and Maradona, the latter choosing to wear his tightly wrapped around his ‘Hand of God’ almost resembling a religious knuckle duster.
Of course it’s easier to believe in a higher power when you’re one of the world’s greatest and best paid footballers. Kaka has said in the past ‘faith decides whether something will happen or not’ which is obviously easier to swallow when you’re a Real Madrid Galactico than if you’re working pulling pints at The Dog & Duck.
I asked my usual barman if he thought this was the path God had laid out for him, I’d let you in on his reply if it wasn’t so blasphemous. Funnily enough, even though he invariably gets the shamrock on a pint of Guinness perfect, I’ve never seen him drop to his knees and unveil a ‘I Belong To Jesus’ t-shirt.
How do we know if belief in the almighty actually works out on the football field? If Patrice Evra does five self blessings (where a player will replicate a cross with their finger from the forehead down) before entering the field of play and Robinho looks to the heavens for 30 seconds then who wins Top Trumps? What’s the currency here?
There’s even more complications when competing religious beliefs get involved. Franck Ribery raises his hands to Allah at the start of each game, so if he’s up against a devoutly Christian defence does that mean the leaders of the respective faiths put all else aside for 90 minutes whilst they try to make the respective prayers come true?
I also get confused at how these players then justify using their faith to excuse cheating. Maradona famously coined the phrase ‘Hand of God’ which has now been adopted by villain of the moment Luis Suarez. However, why would God want Uruguay to win? This tiny country of 3.5 million people have won the thing twice yet Ghana’s 24 million inhabitants are yet to see any such glory and the soon to be 600 million Christians in Africa haven’t even seen a semi finalist yet!
Surely if God was as glued to the World Cup as us mere mortals are then he’d want to spread the success of the game around the world. Or am I confusing him with Sepp Blatter? In fact, is Sepp Blatter actually confusing himself with God? That would explain a lot.
I can’t help but feel it’s all a bit convenient to pass blame to someone who inevitably cannot be questioned. If it was the ‘Hand of God’ then that leaves scant room for the media to conduct further inquiries.
Likewise, if upon defeat a sportsman says it was simply what God wished then where do you go from there? You can hardly push the player as to why they feel God decided they would lose that day.
For example Ribery has had a bit of bad luck of late with missing the crucial Champions League final and seemingly forgetting how to play football prior to the World Cup. Is this down to his well publicised indiscretions with a lady of the night? Is Allah giving him a virtual slap about the face?
Whether this has any effect on a game or not is highly doubtful, even if there was a higher power at work, then surely football would be some way down the list of priorities. Just don’t tell the players that.