I’ve tried to bring some real positivity to football through my recent articles on The Roar. At times that has been tricky considering some of the recent tensions surrounding simulation, expansion and broadcast rights.
Some of the threads have unfortunately become downright nasty and antagonistic voices, seemingly from the outside, have essentially side tracked the discussion into code wars: episode 356.
From my recent articles you might remember my foray into A-League collector cards, another article celebrating how far this wonderful game has come in this country and a defence of football after the high jacking that took place after the ridiculously overblown simulation-gate.
I rounded things off with the fantasy Christmas wishes of all the A-League coaches.
It’s a time of the year synonymous with Test cricket, Big Bash and some wonderful football matches in often stifling conditions. Yet the actually meaning and theology behind Christmas doesn’t appear, at first glance, to be reflected in the game itself.
However, when you dig a little deeper and think about the players, clubs, clashes and rivalries that take place over the period, it’s not hard to see something much more meaningful and symbolic beneath the surface.
Football is humanity. It is struggle, anguish, triumph and despair all rolled into one. At a basic level, football is the most simplistic metaphor for life that exists.
No need for complex equipment like the garb required by a hockey goal keeper or a Test batsman. Just a simple round sphere that has the power to bring together a group of local boys in a rubble infested vacant block in the middle east or a lush green field in South America, where local coffee bean gatherers take a break during the heat of the day.
In addition, the sphere has the power to nurture the parent/child relationship far greater than technology, media or exorbitant Asian made paraphernalia found in spades at local bargain stores.
Football strips back the layers and makes things more simple. Just as Christmas should do for us. The season encourages us to remove the layers of baggage, our well-crafted masks and look at ourselves in a more fundamental way, reflecting on the year past and allowing for enhanced perspective.
Baseball in the USA has always had a similar appeal, the simplicity of the game could potential encourage us to look at ourselves from a new perspective, one of humility and serenity.
As near as I can tell there around fifty nationalities represented in the A-League. Watching a German dribble past a Dutchman only to be brought down by a Uruguayan just outside the box, says a lot about brotherhood and the universality of human experience.
When a Fijian steps up to take the free kick and slots the goal passed a Dane to open the scoring, there is something to be celebrated. Most leagues around the world could lay claim to a similar mix in terms of culture and perhaps football could lead the way in a world that appears to need much healing.
Empathy and trust can be built, quite simply, through common experience. The Remember the Titans fans out there will be well aware of this being embodied in the famous film.
Perhaps Americans need a few games of football with the Mexicans to appreciate that the vast majority of them are not actually rapists.
Maybe the North and South Koreans could work towards a common ground under the banner of football and perhaps the story of Awer Mabil could be recounted more often to make people aware of the plight of many disenfranchised and displaced refugees who find themselves in search of a new home.
Christmas is a time to come together as families and communities. I can’t help but feel some sense of irony in the fact that I will watch men from all corners of the globe work together in complete harmony each weekend in A-League matches, yet see the nations they represent struggle to find some common ground with neighbours, long-time enemies and their own indigenous cultures.
The stories around the talented A-League player pool are varied and unique. Just as a boy raised on the leafy and wealthy North Shore of Sydney can make the big time, so can the player from the proverbial ‘wrong side of the tracks’.
That player, whether a refugee, child of a broken home or a socio-economically challenged family, can still grace our screens as an A-League star if blessed with fast feet, great control, desire to succeed and the courage to persist.
Just like the little drummer boy who came with nothing of value to present to the King, he was still accepted in light of his humanity rather than his means.
The more I think about it, it’s easy to imagine that Jesus himself might have dabbled in the beautiful game in Palestine around 2,000 odd years ago.
At some point I’m sure one of his followers (Notice that there were twelve? Coincidence? I think not) kicked something in his direction on the road to Damascus. I wonder if he trapped it, turned onto his left and returned it with even more force.
Maybe, right now, somewhere in the skies there is a roughly thrown together game of football taking place. Mohammed is up front for one team, Buddha plays the number ten role and provides him with good service.
Jesus plays in the mids and his dexterity with the ball at his feet makes him appear almost on water. Vishnu is solid in defence and the presence of the Abraham in goal is reassuring.
The team contain a sprinkling of atheists, homosexuals, gypsies, victims of discrimination, refugees and Indigenous people from across the globe.
All the while, I expect, they are all laughing. Every single one of them. Laughing at us, as we foolishly grapple to transfer the simple ideas of brotherhood and empathy found in the game of football, across to the insane world that, many of us, will spend time praying for over this Christmas period.