Sunday, 11 July 2010

Politics, Religion and Football before the Final

So we are now less than 24 hours from the final and can almost start looking forward to Rio in 2014, but before we get to the final itself, let us look at some of the side effects and issues associated with the world cup.
The first of these is the politics, for those who have been watching the games and not just following this blog. One can’t have not help but notice the procession of heads of states at these games, if your national team is doing well, you can be assured that the politicians will want to be seen and therefore associated with something which makes the people happy. Angela Merkel could not control herself against Argentina. King Juan Carlos was coolness personified against Germany and as for crown princess Maxima of Holland, well her joy was unrestrained as Holland went ahead against Uruguay. This association however can backfire, if the team flops, The Argentinean president Cristiana Kirchner who is up for reelection, campaigned for free screenings of games and arranged for large screens to be erected all over the country, which was all well and good until the Argies lost 4-0 to the Sherman’s.
So the feel good factor which politicians try to feed off is manifested in another way. In nine months time there will be a baby boom in at least the countries that advanced to the last four. This is actually very important to some of these countries especially the Dutch, where a leap in the indigenous population is very important due to the number of Moslems already in the country. Obviously in the Catholic countries this will not be so felt, which leads us nicely into the last facet at which I wish to look at today.
The most commonly observed act during this tournament has been the sight of players crossing themselves throughout the games.
The two countries playing in the final embody their separate faiths. As an Englishman, when I think of Spain, I conjure up images of El Cid, Catherine of Aragon (cause of the Reformation in England) The Spanish Armada and of course who could have expected Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition.
The Dutch as we know play in Orange and Prince William of Orange became William the third of England in 1689 before going on to defeat the Catholic King James the second of England at the battle of the Boyne on July 12th 1690 (could be a good omen for the Dutch) to establish Protestant hegemony in Ireland, which has survived in the north at least to this day and has been the cause of so much trouble in the Emerald Isle.

The facts speak for themselves, only one truly Protestant country has ever one the world cup, that being England, and even though Germany was the home of the Protestant movement, their best teams and players have traditionally come from Bavaria, a staunchly Catholic province, so we will call them half and half.
So why does it seem that Catholics are better at football than Protestants, well there a number of reasons, the first is historical and relates to the reason Luther posted his articles(a man obviously ahead of his time, the first blogger) Luther was against the indulgencies of the Catholic church. Indulgency is the watchword of Catholic football, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, need I continue, play there football in an over indulgent, somewhat extravagant manner and it seems to work.
The next reason is the way the two faiths deal with sin or in this case, mistakes on and off the football field. In Catholicism, you sin or stray and one simply has to go to confession, say a couple of Hail Mary’s (and that is not the American football kind) receive absolution and you are free to err again. This translates to the football field to a much more relaxed attitude to giving the ball away or missing a goal. The players don’t even need to confess, they just cross themselves and are good to go again. Not so with the Protestants, who view sin in a much more serious manner. There is no hope for sinners until they die. This means that the burdens of making an error are far greater. No-one in England has really forgiven or forgotten the litany of players who have missed penalties or made glaring mistakes and thus caused England to lose.
Off the field, the same differences are apparent, in a Non football related example. President Mitterrand of France was known for his indiscretions which barely caused an eyelid to be raised. Compare that to the reaction in the USA, to the behaviour of President Clinton, in a Catholic country, a shrug of the shoulders may have ensued.
The English camp was riven a few months before the world cup, due to allegations against the then Captain, John Terry, of affairs unbecoming.
This was a definite factor in the poor performance of the English team, as the rumours about similar behaviour by other players and recriminations amongst the players continued.
In France and Spain nobody could see what the fuss was about. Team Spirit is very important.
So if this theory holds true, Spain will emerge victorious later today. But perhaps King William of Orange will again triumph. We will have to wait and see.
I will post a more traditional preview of the final later today, remember to check back


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