First of all, flocks of humans migrate in their tens of thousands from all around the world, full of optimism and bravado, -convinced that their own teams are about to win The World Cup.
They all descend upon the host country, literally falling out of the sky inside their flying machines, where they receive a warm welcome from locals, (who have just quadrupled the price of their beer and accommodation).
The fans defiantly stay cheerful by singing special songs and wearing their brightest outfits despite the fact that with every passing minute, more money is draining out of their pockets.
Then finally, when the action starts, these humans become wildly excited, pouring into stadia and watching twenty-two hoodlums shamefully abusing a giant egg on a patch of grass. All the while, there’s a kind of policeman in the middle, frantically trying to maintain law and order by blowing his whistle, and waving his arms in the air.
As the contest unfolds, some strange human rituals begin to take place. My favourite is when the players do “the dead parrot trick” by suddenly falling to the ground, rolling over onto their backs, and then wiggling their feet up towards the sky. (And strange as it may seem, this always seems to occur in the opposing penalty area). When someone eventually wallops the egg into the net, some of the crowd start cheering while others begin to cry; some of the players start kissing while others begin to curse. And all the while, in the thick of the action, the policeman continues to blow his whistle and wildly wave his arms in the air.
And I ask myself, what does Jesus make of it all? Does He think that football and The World Cup are good things? Well, I’m sure that Jesus believes everything has the potential to be good. It all depends upon the attitude and behaviour of all of the humans involved.
“An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.”
So there clearly shouldn’t be any cheating or play-acting on the pitch.
And Philippians 2:3-4 offers a clear message for both the host nation and the travelling fans:
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
So there is nothing wrong with Christian people and others enjoying the World Cup Finals provided that everybody keeps a true perspective of the occasion. The players, the fans and the press should never get it out of proportion, especially when their team tries its utmost to succeed, but ultimately fails. So, no riots; no incriminations; no extreme behaviour in the bars, on the streets or inside the stadia. And does it really matter if England always fail to win?
The media and the fans often forget that every single member of the human race is a failure. Everyone falls short of God’s wishes, and it was Jesus who bailed everyone out by dying on the cross. So, this wise parrot says this. Keep it all in proportion. Enjoy the occasion, - win or lose. Soak up the atmosphere. Feel the suspense. Be “wowed” by the action. Marvel at the colour and vibrancy of the different groups of fans.
And most importantly, see the whole tournament as a wonderful opportunity for the people of the world to unite as one. A world in which politics, religious differences, race, ethnicity, tribalism and prejudice are all forgotten. A world in which everybody is our neighbour and our friend. A world in which we don’t try to take advantage of others or impose ourselves over others by using force. That’s the world that Jesus would like. And that’s the opportunity provided by this World Cup Tournament. And ultimately it’s all down to you humans as to how it all turns out. What kind of World Cup will this be?