FOOTBALL – THE NEW RELIGION ?

 

As another thrilling football tournament comes to an end with the pre-tournament favourite Spain winning Euro 2008 last night, many of us will have withdrawal symptoms in the pubs and front rooms of the country.

Even without a British team involved in the tournament hosted successfully by Austria and Switzerland, it was not to hard to be absorbed into the nightly entertainment and drama as many were in the UK, very often adopting other national sides as their team. This bodes well for how it is possible for people’s loyalties to change from solely nationalist ones and be driven by which is the more entertaining side as teams like Holland, Russia and Spain were happily adopted by the British public.
Also credit has to be given to those hosting such events, as to all intents and purposes all those travelling fans who went to Euro 2008 enjoyed themselves. I witnessed this for myself most recently when I went to the Champions league final in Moscow in the spring – it was clear that a great deal of good organisation had gone into a successful and safe event and the host nations must be congratulated.

In an increasingly secularised Britain, I wonder if football is not beginning to take on almost the resonances of a new kind of organised quasi-religion? The Church of England’s regular attendance figures are continuing to steadily decline while a whopping 8.9 million viewers tuned in to the match on Sunday evening.  As a football fan myself I regularly experience, alongside thousands of others, a kind of Saturday afternoon pilgrimage to the hallowed turf of my favoured team and stood united in worship of our chosen idols.

It would be interesting to compare and contrast numbers of those regularly attending matches and watching them on television and those regularly attending worship – across all organised religions. Is football taking over a role in our culture previously occupied by those religions and if so why?  It is certainly an interesting debate which could throw up some interesting conclusions about modern society!