Why does football feel so spiritual?

Are you a casual football supporter, someone who hates the game or are you a die-hard fan? Personally, I’m a bit of a mixture but even I can’t deny the spirituality of football.

I don’t support any teams. I don’t know any footballers; I don’t even know where our local stadium is. I’ve also never played in a team, and I didn’t even play at lunchtime when I was at school. In fact, the closest I got to playing football in school was when I would watch my older brother and his friends play. Even then, I only went to hang out because one of his friends would give me money to go to the shop for them. He let me keep the change.

I’m not even kidding a little bit. I’ve been known to leave group chats with my best friends when they start talking about football. Yet I absolutely love it when England plays.

Yesterday I was utterly glued to the TV. I was on the edge of my seat, making commentary like I had a degree in footballology. I threw my hands up when we were fouled, congratulated players as If they could hear me, and when we scored and won, I was up off my seat screaming and running around the house.

So what’s going on here?

If you’ve read anything I’ve written, you won’t be surprised to know that I highly value corporate or communal celebration experiences. There’s something electric about them. There’s a pull, a force of gravity which creates a swell of expectation that begins to create something unique within the moment. It’s all very spiritual.

Maybe the reason I’m so indifferent to football is more to do with not finding a local team I connect with, but I find the gravity surrounding the England team irresistible. It’s similar to when I listen to well-crafted music designed for stadiums.

I don’t know if you’ll easily follow my point here, but music production is often centred around the space the hearer is likely to engage with it. Some music’s designed for your earphones while you sip a cup of tea. Some music’s produced for the record player and a glass of whiskey; then there’s music written and produced for the car. Some music, however, is intended for the stadium. Often, it’s self-propelling, like Sweet Caroline, springing up from the terraces.

In the Bible, there’s a lot written about connected experiences. For example, we’re encouraged in Romans 15 to celebrate when others celebrate and mourn when others mourn, and I think it’s important to understand why. You see, God connects everything. In Ephesians 4, it says that God is over everything and in everything. That might not sound significant, but to me, it means that everything has a spiritual connection, which really helps me to make sense of life. Friends of mine say that when we sense the spiritual we start to stir. The way I celebrate is spiritual. The way music I listen stirs me is spiritual. The way I deal with loss is spiritual, and maybe, the way I connect with International football is spiritual too.

And if that’s true, It means our joined-together gravity-well experience around football can extend to other areas of our lives. Our relationships, the work we do, and even our money. Maybe that’s already your experience, but if it isn’t, the good news is that if you’ve experienced the high of sporting achievement in a crowd, you’ve likely already felt the pull of the eternal.

It’s a small glimpse of the kingdom of God and of course, this is a moment of unity and a time to recognise the hard work of a team dedicated to success. The same is also true for the crowd supporting the losing team, and we similarly join with them, congratulating their dedication as well.

Anyway, for now it’s just time to say well done, England; you’ve done us proud.

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