As I write England’s World Cup challenge is underway. This is my first and, probably, last post about it – possibly about football at all, given my general lack of interest. Yet every four years the World Cup sets a nation alight. There is so much hype that to have no knowledge of what is going on probably makes you socially less acceptable than sporting dandruff-covered shoulders or having professional triangle lessons. Thus I follow what is going on so that I don’t embarrass my son (or, indeed, myself).
Perhaps unusually, though, I am watching (yes, at the same time as writing this blog!) in church. Some bright spark had the idea of showing the match on the ‘big screen’ usually used to bring up the hymn words. We’re all here, although I think my daughter would be as happy at home having a bath and bed. My husband is busy designing the bathrooms for our house, calculating how many tiles we’ll need. My son has brought his best friend along as well, so they are happily ensconced with bowls of crisps, soaking up the patriotism that reigns supreme.
We have England flags galore, plenty of red and white emblazoned across the room. The popcorn is popped; the cans are opened. A dozen families have settled in for the evening. Out come the teams. Some stand for the national anthem, some sing. All are jocular, excited, full of anticipation.
Then trouble arrives. In walks our minister.
Collective breaths are drawn. How would he react to this English posse? Is this display of patriotism really allowed in church? Can you eat crisps and lemonade in the sanctuary?
He marches down the aisle as the Stars and Stripes is sung. In his hand is a small flag that he waves; on his cheek is painted the same flag; indeed it is emblazoned across his trainers and shirt. He begins singing loudly.
He is American. Bizarrely, he’s not supporting the same team as everyone else. (And he’s less happy that anyone else with the score after the first five minutes…) Thankfully he makes nearly as much noise in support of his team as everyone else in the room put together. (By half-time he’s cheered up a lot!)
South Africa, the rainbow nation, is hosting a magnificent world event. Let's hope every match can be supported with as much good humour and friendliness as this.
Final edit: At the start of church on Sunday morning our minister revealed the power of prayer. He was afraid that no-one would come to his service if the USA won so he’d prayed for a draw…