Halftime @TheWorldCup : Is God Watching?

We’re almost at the halfway mark of the World Cup 2014. There’s been plenty of thrills and spills, and at the time of writing, a quarter of the quarter final matches have been confirmed. Many would agree that this has been one of the most exciting world cups in recent history. Why?

In my humble opinion, I think the world game and soccer in general has ‘equalized’. By this, I mean that the understanding and appreciation of the game is now complete, whether you are an ex-world champion with loads of experience, or a debut team with a lot of passion and determination and conviction to make it there and beyond. Because people generally now have access to the same resources and knowledge as others in the peer group (in this case, the world cuppers), managers, coaches and players can now strategize and plan their moves and counter-moves to overcome their opponents. This is what we are seeing in this world cup. Any team that comes in thinking they can just do what they did previously and hope to win will be in for a big surprise, as teams like Italy, England, Spain and even Germany have discovered. The only teams that stutter are the ones that refuse to adapt and evolve. Although seemingly insignificant, this great equalizing big idea powerfully enabled by technology and accessibility has given the Davids of this world tremendous ability to defeat the Goliaths.

However, the big spiritual question today that I want to ask about the World Cup is – Is God watching? I can’t help but be blown away by the humility and piousness of some of the players and managers (and fans too). Sometimes, you sense that players are playing for their country, fans and other players. But, the truly masterful and virtuoso performances I feel are played for God. How else can you explain the gestures and ‘actions’ of the players when they celebrate their goal? These ambassadors of God are shining their light in perhaps the biggest stage in their lives, and what a wonderful job they are doing.

Case in point is this morning’s goal by Jackson Martinez from Colombia. Here is a religious man who the commentator made it a point to state as someone who begins each day with the bible. Is that common knowledge? Is that what makes a soccer player stand out? How did that get in the script? He is but one example, there are so many you can see – what do players do before they step into the field, or off it? When they miss a goal, who are they asking forgiveness from (hint – they look up!)? When they score a goal, (more often than not), how do they celebrate?

What the world cup has shown is that it is more than a game, and tournament. It is an opportunity to showcase the human spirit and in a certain way, a form of worship for the players and fans. It is a pity that we have to wait 4 years to experience the next one. But, from the ominous signs of how it is evolving, I can’t wait to see what comes next. I have a feeling God feels the same way too.

Does anyone remember what happened in the last world cup !? Guess what he’s going to be when he grows up?






The Human Spirit

In less than a week, the biggest event in the world is going to begin… For as long as I can remember, I’ve been mad about the ‘world game’ – actually the first memory I do recall is in 1978… The Road to Argentina. That was when it kicked in for me, literally. I caught football (or soccer to some of you) fever as a kid in Standard 5 (similar to Year 5 in Australian primary school speak). I would save my daily allowance, skip lunch and instead buy a plastic ball for a dollar and by the end of the day, us football-mad kids would have busted the ball and the next day, the cycle began anew. It was always me, among the group, who would lead by buying the ball. I would have easily been the most ‘assetized’ kid in the block, and also the one crazy enough to skip food and instead choose to play football with my friends. Those were some of my best memories growing up.

I would spend countless hours at home perfecting moves playing against the wall. When friends came over, we didn’t need a field, any space would do. I had more than my fair share of scoldings and beatings (yes, we were ‘expected’ to be disciplined by the rod and worse) when we err… lost control of the ball and made a mess of things breakable. But, did that stop us? No!

We were totally addicted and passionate about ‘the game’.

The question was, and is, ‘How did we catch the passion and love of this game?’

When I wasn’t playing football in the field, I would invent games using cards, action figurines etc. Have you seen how creative kids can be using bottle caps to invent a game of table soccer? Even pieces of paper or card and a scrupled up ball with matchbox goal boxes? Then video games came along and I swear, being a video game junkie that I was (and still am) I had every known electronic soccer game ever written.

It is very interesting to note that this year, the game will be played in Brazil. Wow, Brazil. Home to the most recognizable, famous and universally acknowledged champions of the game – Pele, Zico, Socrates, Ronaldo and today’s would be legend Neymar. Can you imagine the pressure?

But, I digress. It’s normal when you start talking about something you are passionate about. These days, I can only play (well) on the iPad or as a manager in those sims on the computer or iPhone. Still passionate about soccer, but it’s a tad more intellectual. What I did want to point to, and I’m sorry it took more than half the blog to get there, is where did the passion come from?

I didn’t get taught this. I wasn’t very good at it – I only made it to the class team, not even the school team. But, I did score and made some spectacular goals in my time. I think that happened because I was passionate about the game and not the other way around. What about the game (and any other sport) influenced and attracted people like me to love it, feel for it and become a fan(atic)?

How did that happen? Wouldn’t it be great if we can distill this great insight and use it to create super-learners in schools today?

One thing I can say for certain is this… football and how I view and played it had made me who I am today. I am more creative and ‘adaptable’ because of the game and the stars of the game I idolized and admired. Players like Platini, Georghe Hagi, Glenn Hoddle, Scholesy were people I had looked at and wondered at their genius, vision and absolute artistry. They were able to create something out of nothing, just like that. And that was an ethos and mastery I had sought to emulate in everything else that I do.

It’s been a while since I last watched and followed the World Cup. In 2010, I didn’t even watch a single match in its entirety. But, this year I intend to reignite my love and passion for the game. With the internet, and live streaming, it’s easy. Let’s hope it’s a good one.

After all, it’s more than a game, it’s a celebration of the human spirit. But then, what is the human spirit?

Nike attempts to capture it in its World Cup ad… Enjoy!