Samstag, 11. April 2015

Why football???? A Happy Easter Column

There are some things a person has to do in life to be able to say: I have lived! Surf the Niagara Falls. Climb the Eiffel Tower! Nutmeg Lionel Messi! Imagination unlimited. But to tweet simultaneously about football and Jesus definitely belongs on my list of those things. I did just that. Once.
Once is enough.
In the end I blocked two people, one on football and one on Jesus. May they live happily ever after, I don't want to be informed about it.
What is it that makes football as important as faith? That the fact that we can't agree upon a certain fact - or dogma - renders the person who uttered this conviction unbearable in my timeline? In either case?
It was Match Day today. A double match day. Mainz 05, my local club, played Champions League approaching Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga and my be"hated" Paris St.Germain played the Coup de la Ligue final against Bastia. Modern football with its differing time-tables we fervently oppose in Germany made it possible for me to watch both games.

So, here's a walk on the thin edge between liturgy and ... well, liturgy.


A thousand years old. Stood through the horrible bombing on Feb 27th 1945. Just to look at it makes Mainz citizens feel better.

Four years old. Built after lengthy discussions with farmers who wouldn't sell their acres. Still eyed a bit askance by fans who mourn the old and spirited Bruchweg Stadium. Yet, to drive by it on the highway and see it standing in all its red glory (LED-bulbs at night!) makes Mainz fans feel a lot better.

Places you go to to be connected with a higher value. Something greater than you and your daily sorrows and the nagging question which is better: the new iPhone or Samsung? Or what is Putin really up to? Places to forget about these things. Places to put them into perpective. Politics, bills, x-rays - they're all important,. but still - there's more to life than reality. 

"Jo, ho! All together! Raise the colours high! Heave, ho, thieves and beggars! Never shall we die!"

Never's a big word. We'll all die, sooner or later. You sooner, me later, as the old Klingon saying goes. But the colours, ah, the colours they will remain. Our dead are mentioned in the stadium. Minutes of silence are kept. Our dead still belong to us, they are never forgotten.

("I love it when a plan comes together!" Not exactly what Mathias Grünewald had in mind when he designed the Isenheimer Altar.)

And also the living.
Belonging, that's the key word. Being connected with those who were before us, those are around us and those who may be above us ...

You'll never walk alone!

The entrance of the clergy is much the same in football and church, so I'll just insert a football pic here, mainly for copyright reaons (I don't habitually take pictures during entrances in church).


Intermediation. What Martin Luther was so irritated about. Do we need priests to intercede for us with God? Do we need players to connect us with victory and glamour? Luther was fiercely opposed to it. Poor baby! ask yourself, what elates you more - a protestant service or a football game?

Pyrotechnics are evil! They cause thousands of deaths per year! (They don't!) No rational creature can be in favour of them.

Unless it is the Holy Sepulchre, most holy christian cathedral in Jerusalem during orthodox Easter Vigil service. Thousands of candles burning very close to one another, catching fire from one another, blazing, burning, fueling our feelings, our craving for light and warmth and power.


Pure ration must not prevail!

At least not always and everywhere.
Just a couple of days before the game versus Leverkusen, Bayer04 had lost to Bayern München in the DFB-Pokal quarterfinals whereupon exit Bayer 04 Leverkusen from this competition. Tempers were running high since it was a being kicked out per penalty shooting and Bayer-player Emir Spahic had lost his after the game and reacted to the understandably annoying fact that friends or relatives of his were banned from entering the pitch by making his point with fists and headbutting rather than words and gestures.
Mayhem in the media. Logical consequence: Spahic will never again wear the hallowed red-and-black of the most traditional club of Bayer 04 Leverkusen. Shame be upon him! The aggressive beast!

 The fans obviously thought otherwise. The banner reading "Emir, one of us" was shown throughout the game at Mainz. Sportschau commentators scoffed it due to professional requirements.

He, who is without sin among journos and managers, he, who never at least WANTED to headbutt a fellow man (the one slipping into the last vacant parking spot right in front of you, as a randomly chosen example), he, who never chose his words in an article or commentary to raise a laugh from the audience on the prize of hurting a fellow-human's pride or reputation, he may go and throw a stone at Emir Spahic. 
As a theologian I can take it easy, I can just quote the gospel according to John, chapter 8.
We, as the fans, who mostly share neither suits nor car models with the managers and are very, VERY seldom listened to by as many people as the average journalist, but who care deeply about our clubs, maybe, because it's the one thing we allow ourselves to really and truly care about deeply in life, we know that feeling when frustration gets the better of you, when next-door's bully - e.g. Bayern München- steals the show AGAIN. We know you do things then you wish you hadn't done the day after. And we don't judge those who fall prey to their emotions.
We are not the management. Be that advantage or disadvantage.

My home
My love
My club

The end, at least yesterday at Mainz, found me with the losers.  Despite a gallant run after their first goal in min 78. my red-and-white boys left the pitch defeated. I can't say I was surprised. Most of the time the game looked like a meeting of a club fourth in the league and aspiring for the Champions league and a club twelfth in the league with a nervous glance at relegation places - which is exactly what it was. We could have caused Leverkusen more grief, though, if we had woken up sooner to the revelation.

Thus the big screen showed no mercy, either with the likes of Emir Spahic or with us lowly fans.
And our beautiful Johannes Geis, our crown prince of set pieces and free kicks ...

... took the opportunity to show another side of his most lovable character (not to mention his most lovable outward features) in being once again the first of the players to walk up to the stands after the game to hail the fans. At a score of 0:3 we had started singing those songs which don't deal much with winning but emphasize on loyalty and sticking-together-through-the-wind-and-the-rain, and this didn't go unnoticed with the likes of Johnny Geis.
He's clearly bound for more royal ventures than Mainz.
Blast it!

But this is the greatness we connect with. Be it in the Coface Cathedral or the St.Martin's Stadium downtown Mainz. Loss, defeat - we don't savour them, we hate them, but they are part of life, part of a greatness we can't really escape from. All life ends in defeat. Better know it now and be prepared. Better not to face it on your own.

Which is what Easter is about.

And football.

By the way - Paris St.Germain won their cup-final. So, it was the correct line-up, after all. Good Friday in the afternoon, Resurrection in the evening. Hallelujah!

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