TSF: The Effect Of Religion On Modern Football

Each week, The Secret Footballer will offer a sneak preview of his weekend column on F365. In this column, he ponders religion's creep into the dressing-room...

Last Updated: 28/09/12 at 09:17 Post Comment

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This is a preview of The Secret Footballer's weekly column. The full version will appear on his website - The Secret Footballer.com - on Saturday...

I don't believe in God. As a young man, I made a point of avoiding religion like a plague of locusts (Exodus 10:1). Because of that lifestyle choice, you could call me ignorant whenever religion creeps in to my life - like the fact I had to use Google to check where the plague of locusts is mentioned in the Bible.

When I first began playing football, religion in this country was not something that many players went in for. Fast-forward more than a decade and we can see signs of players taking religious inspiration into almost every game, whether it's the prayers in the changing-room beforehand, the sign of the cross as they enter the pitch or the 'I belong to Jesus' vests that some players feel the need to display to the rest of the world.

I am not offended by religion, I don't follow a religion myself and I don't judge others that do. I am fairly nonplussed by the whole thing, if I'm honest, but the cultural explosion in changing-rooms up and down the country means that many players are being affected by the beliefs of others.

The annual fasting by Muslims, known as Ramadan, is the most obvious example of different religions affecting football clubs. The performances of Newcastle's Demba Ba have suffered, according to his manager Alan Pardew, as a direct result and, by extension, the team has had to shoulder his loss.

I have been witness to exactly the same situation and, while our manager made all the right noises in the media, demonstrating understanding and acceptance inside the walls of our training ground, he was as intolerant towards that player as he was ignorant of his situation.

Rightly or wrongly, my life simply doesn't have room for religion. I enjoy my vices and I don't like the thought of being answerable to anybody or anything. I never have. I don't know enough about it; there are a lot of grey areas to my mind. I don't understand how to live my life on somebody else's terms and I don't understand what is expected from me.

Be it my ignorance, but I also don't understand how a couple of religious players who I know can walk on to the pitch making the sign of the cross and, later that same night, walk out of a young lady's hotel room with the devil on his shoulder.

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