How can football be related to faith? We saw in a previous article that the Vatican has its own Clericus Cup, an annual tournament which is held every year during Lenten season. Is that as far as we can go when we link football to faith?
Indeed not. The Vatican is not the only institution with interest in linking the two. In Britain there are a number of organisations whose aims are to open new avenues for faith communities.
Football has the power to bring people together and this is what the Faith in Football Working Group, focus on. While we have radical groups intent on dividing people through the beautiful game, this organisation is making milestones in history with their education and faith based football related activities.
The group first showcased its Faith in Football education programme with a three faiths forum in 2012. Young children from Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim communities were brought together in Wembley. In addition to playing football, the youngsters designed their own strips to reflect their beliefs. Through this initiative, the children came away learning more about their peers from other religions.
Faith and football are not poles apart. In fact, they have been intrinsically linked since the 19th century as we can see from the following:
1874 The Bolton Wanderers FC was founded by the Rev Thomas Ogden who set up the Christ Church Football Club which was run from the church of the same name in Manchester. In 1877, the name was changed to Bolton Wanderers. Today, it is a second division team that plays in the Football League Championship.
1878 St Domingo Methodist Church Sunday School football team played its first match in Stanley Park, Liverpool. One year later, its name was changed to Everton Football Club and today it plays in the Premier League.
1919 St George’s Settlement Synagogue was founded in London’s East End for the local Jewish communities. It was the only one of its kind at that time and it excelled in sports, including football.
1937 Maccabi GB Jewish Sports and Social Charity was founded as a response to Jews having been excluded from mainstream sport. Its first football fixture was played in the Southern League in 1957.
1966 Punjabi United FC was formed. It is one of the first Sikh based football clubs and forms the basis of Punjabi Wolves, which is recognised as the the largest organised group of ethnic football club supporters in the world.
So, how can we not relate faith and football? After all, the very footballers need faith in themselves and in each other in order to play the beautiful game.