Its a Funny old Game

This morning's Thought for the Day offering...

Well today the back pages of the newspapers have been filled with stories of my beloved Liverpool's all-too-late thrashing of a weakened Chelsea side. As  Jimmy Greaves used to say of to erstwhile Liverpool player Ian St. John, “It’s a funny old game, Saint…” And throughout this season it has been just that… Though funny in the sense of strange, rather than “ha-ha”. It has been on the front page of the newspapers as much as on the back…
Allegations of racist language being used by high profile premiership players caused huge repercussions, not only to Liverpool, where it may have contributed to their lacklustre season, but also to the English national team, necessitating the appointment of a new England manager,  leading in turn to controversy about misjudged jokes in the press about the speech impediment of appointee Roy Hodgson
We also had the seeming suicide of Welsh national manager Gary Speed, which, briefly put the importance of football into perspective…
Then we have had the ongoingimplosion of Rangers in Scotland threatening the future of one of the most famous (and toxic) rivalries in the sport; while south of the border we have the development of a real rivalry between the two Manchester teams, which will only be resolved this year on the last day of the season.
But the biggest front page football story of the year has undoubtedly been that of Fabrice Muamba and his recovery after heart failure in the FA Cup quarter-final between Spurs and Bolton. His appearance at Wembley on Saturday during the final was undoubtedly the best thing about Saturday for me… and probably would have been whatever the result… It certainly seemed to be an answer to the high profile Pray 4 Muamba campaign that crossed all boundaries of team loyalties… uniting fans of all faiths and none in praying for him and wishing him well.
But from the positive side of football we descend to the depths with the news yesterday, that in the wake of former Derry City player James McLean’s selection for the Republic of Ireland squad in the European finals, some so-called Northern Ireland fans have been sending him death-threats
I said last Wednesday that I have mixed loyalties when it comes to sport, but in football I am a Northern Ireland fan, through thick, and more frequently thin… But in the light of these revelations, I’m going to be backing James McLean the whole way… including praying for his safety and for  the prosecution of those who look on football as a way to pedal prejudice…
But I want to leave the last word of this football themed thought for the day to Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, who was recently asked, in the light of the Fabrice Muamba affair and after being spotted at church in the run up to the end of the season, whether he prayed. His answer:
"Pray? Of course... everyday... but not about this stuff!"
In prayer and in football, we need to sort out our priorities…
And that Liverpool team need to buck up their ideas!


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