The world’s most popular sport is football, (also widely known as soccer). It has an estimated 3.5billion fans worldwide. The main objective of soccer is to score a goal with any part of the body except the arms and hands. There are 17 Laws of the Game which help to ensure order and fairness in play.
Four categories of people are involved. The first group are the players – 11 players on each side. The second is the referee, who is solely responsible implementing the rules. He is assisted by the linesmen, who constitute the third group. The fourth group are the onlookers – the fans – often fanatical, cheering, shouting and piling pressure on the players in and outside the stadium.
As I watched the football match between France and Portugal yesterday, some thoughts about the reality of life came to my mind. I took a look at the players, the referees, and the linesmen as they lined up for their national anthems and the usual exchange of pleasantries before the match. Then suddenly, as if to complete the quartet, the camera flipped on to the stands and focused on the faces of the restless fans. Three things struck me!
First, the few fans that I could see in the close-up, all wore wrist watches just like the referees and the linesmen. Secondly, the referee had something more – the whistle for calling the attention of the players to the rules and maintaining orderliness. There was a third thing common to all four groups, without which the game of football would not have been possible. I’ll keep you guessing what this is.
The only group without any wrist watch were the players on the field of play. Yet time was crucial in this encounter! The game must be won or lost within the stipulated time. If there was no winner, it would go to extra time. I watched as they got into the field of play and played their hearts out, “knowing that even though they don’t know the exact time, the exact minute the game would end and the whistle would be blown, they are conscious of the fact that the game will definitely end when the one holding the time blows his whistle.” I found myself almost recalling the sermon from a source that came through my WhatsApp. I can’t put better so, I beg to quote with some modifications.
“I liken this to our race here on earth. We are on the pitch of play called life. And even though we all wear wrist watches, we know they are just a man-made device to guide our daily activities and give us a sense of timing. The one who holds time – our Referee – is somewhere waiting and watching us play our game on the pitch of life. He has a whistle. When the time is up, by His own timing, he will blow the whistle and the game will be over and then winners and losers will emerge and rewards will be given to deserving players.”
The only goal of the match was scored in the extra-time and soon after, the referee blew his whistle for the last time. The game was over! Portugal won and France lost. There was jubilation on one side and crying on the other. Why? This is the pastor’s answer, “They cry and gnash their teeth because it’s all over! The game is over and the time is up! They weep because they see missed opportunities, missed scoring chances, but by that time, the time is up! And those who celebrate do so because they won the match. They were adjudged winners and deserving of the much – contested trophy.”
The Portugal – France game is over and will dominate the news for weeks and perhaps, several months but for us, our play is still on; the final whistle yet to be blown and the trophy is still within our reach! We must not lose the lesson of this simple game of football. Unlike France, you still have the opportunity to win the coveted trophy by making up for those missed scoring chances and be a winner like Portugal, against all expectations!
Do you remember I said all four groups except the players had wristwatches? Yet there is something common to all without which the game of football would not have been possible. That is a good eyesight. Without a good eyesight, the play would be uncoordinated; players would kick the ball in the wrong directions; the goalkeepers would be chasing shadows; the referees would be making wrong calls; the linesmen would cause more chaos and bring the game to disrepute and the spectators would find it difficult to appreciate the game.
What then is the real lesson in a game of football? First, remember the pastor likened the game of football to our race here on earth. We are on the pitch of play called life and the one who holds time – our Referee – is somewhere waiting and watching us play our game. When our time is up, he will blow the whistle and the game will be over. Some of us may already be in extra time and it just be the right time to score the winning goal!
Would you like to do something for the hundreds of people who because of cataract or some curable eye diseases cannot enjoy a game of football? The play is still on for you, do something today; help someone to regain his sight. And above all, take care of your own eyes so you may continue to enjoy the game of football before the Referee blows the final whistle and it’s all over.