Friday, June 18, 2010

Sport and religion: The world cup challenge

A sport is not just a way to entertain ourselves but a coming together of different cultures, minds and bodies. It depends on whether one is on the field or watching the field. For one it is performance and the other it is spectatorship. Both, mind you are important and one cannot survive without the other. Religion can also be demarcated into the enactor and the audience. The enactor detaches himself/herself from the present and uses the past to address the here and the future. The audience brings out their vuvuzelas and rant for victory.

This could sound outrageous or outrageously true! How on earth can sport and religion be discussed in the same breath? It is intriguing that some churches in Kerala still have volleyball courts, badminton courts and play grounds attached to them. This could be because they are near schools or because they have a more youth friendly approach. Whatever the reason, it has led to the youth in the church along with nearby youth belonging to various religions coming together and playing in one turf. The resulting camaraderie achieved somehow cannot be emulated in other instances. Sports do indeed have a case for being discussed.

Football has been a sport/game which has an unparallel following throughout the world because it is played and followed in many nations. It is sort of a religion with a wide following. It has achieved success in acting as a calming influence among disturbed youth and in difficult environments. Youth who would otherwise get into various addictions are given a platform to express themselves. So a sport with a wide following is made use of to help various communities around the world. India more so is obsessed with cricket but come the football world cup, many households and common places burn the midnight oil supporting South American and African teams. Euphoria is created by television and other companies vying with each other to sell their products in the bargain.

Various leaders join in the battle cry for the world cup even suggesting which team will win. Church leaders are not far behind either. But unfortunately what appears to be happening is not a support for a sport which has wide possibility of helping communities and fostering togetherness but a support for companies which stand to gain through sport. Coming a close second is the subconscious need to be part of a battle, whatever kind, as long as it is on a field. Shakira’s world cup song is catchy but the lyrics also talk about this battle. ‘You’re a good soldier. Choosing your battles. Pick yourself up. And dust yourself off. And back in the saddle.’ Again ‘You’re on the frontline. Everyone’s watching. You know it’s serious. We’re getting closer. This isn’t over.’ And finally, ‘Listen to your God. This is our motto. Your time to shine. Don’t wait in line.’

I have loved watching the world cup thus far. The Messi’s, the Forlan’s, the Lee Chung-yong’s, the Mueller’s, the Rooney’s, the Drogba’s, and the Khune’s. But I have also enjoyed watching Binu, Shiju, Philip, Moa, Chinza, David, Ranbir, Sajish, Tasha, Nilu and Priya in the small fields of India, playing for acceptance and togetherness. Why would I watch only the football word cup, a far away battle for primacy and not choose to see a game which is a battle for survival much nearer? I wouldn’t ask anyone to not watch the world cup because after all it is a cultural experience which brings people together. But I would plead with the church and its people to accept the possibility that sports and games offers the church in India. This then is the sacredness of religion and sport. This is the sacredness which lies on the ground and the sacredness which brings people together in a special bond and love.


Anonymous said...

Viewing both [R]eligion and sports as being ‘sacred’ has its theological pitfalls. [R]eligion and sports are not ‘sacred’ per se. While the former engages with the ‘sacred’, the latter is to be ‘valued’ than be termed ‘sacred.’ However your point is well taken in the context of marginalising local sports.

Fr Jerry said...

Thanks for your comment. I suppose I have to agree with what you have said. Sacred is indeed a word which should be carefully used. In that sense I should say that I am using a concept (sacredness) as seen in popular faith today and trying to give a different twist to it.

Anonymous said...

Jerry John Kurien on facebook (19-6-2010,6:30 P.M.)- A well expressed thought! I agree with your title its more of a world cup "Challenge" than a "game" as managing the game is much easier than to manage the people involved in the game,As much as it is illusioned that a host country of the game would benefit from the economy ,most of the time its the sponsoring giants who get away with the benefit and same happens in the religion too ,its difficult to manage the leaders in the religion than to manage the faith,ultimately the religious oraganisations promoting the religion is benefited and not the "people".

Fr Jerry said...

Very true. This I suppose is a challenge in itself. I wonder whether we should also research the topic "God at play" to counter the play of our leaders, both political and religious.