Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Why The Pope Needs Help From Higher Up

I haven’t “done” religion much in this blog yet and I don’t intend to. I’m an atheist and proud of it but I don’t much care what other people believe in.

When the Pope makes a foray into the far more important world of football, however, it’s worthy of comment.

Apparently Pope Benedict XVI believes that football can teach our youngsters some crucial lessons of life, especially around fraternity, solidarity and - this is the one that really struck me - honesty.

I didn’t know that the Pope’s a big football fan – follows Bayern Munich, by all accounts – or that last autumn the Vatican sporting club announced a joint venture with Italian Seire B club AC Ancona. Ancona now have a code of conduct which penalises players for “unsporting behaviour” (including diving) and provides cheaper seats for families.

I guess if you’re the Pope you’re implicitly up for a few fights in the battle of ideas but he could have picked an easier one than this. I admire the guy hugely for trying, but re-introducing honesty into football strikes me a nigh-on impossible. It pains me to say it, but cheating, manipulation and frankly appalling behaviour are endemic in the game and our young people are not only exposed to it, they’re positively encouraged to mimic it. I see it happening every Sunday in my son’s league (under 11s) and it sickens me. Meanwhile diving and mutual disrespect for officialdom and opponents alike are part-and-parcel of every Premier League game. Supporters, once seen as the pariahs of the game, are (in England at least) now probably the least of the problems, but you still wouldn’t want to take your six-year-old to a game.

I love football and I think I always will. I love its passion and its simplicity. I love its earthy and tribal nature. Too often though it accepts standards of behaviour that few other sports tolerate. Yes, the game has a lot to offer young people and I like to think I play my part in helping out at my son’s club. Good on you, Mr Pope (what’s the correct form of address ?) for trying to raise the bar. But if you really want to change football's ethics and core values, you might need some help from your boss.

1 comment:

nuttycow said...

I completely agree with you about the (lack of) ethics in football and it's one of the many reasons I'm a rugby fan.

Maybe the Pope should take up rugby... now that's something I'd like to see :)