Whether you love, hate or are indifferent about football, there is no denying that it is the world’s most popular sport.
According to a recent article on the website, Soccer Feed, there are, conservatively, 250,000 football teams scattered throughout every country of the world. Almost 4000 of them are professional football clubs.
Football is the most widely played and widely viewed sport on earth. Whether as participant or spectator, it is estimated a billion people worldwide have some connection to the game.
And why not? All you need is a handful of people, some facsimile of a ball, and a little bit of space, and you got the potential for an exciting match. Because of its simplicity, it is the most playable field-sport in existence. All over the world, vacant lots, front yards, beaches, school playgrounds are magically transformed into football pitches, where the complexities of life can be replaced for a moment by the simple joy of competition.
The professional football world that we know today started in the UK in the late 19th century and has grown into an industry that profits billions of dollars annually. Today, professional footballers, playing for the most successful teams, are some of the most sought after, highly paid athletes in the world.
Some lament the extravagant salaries paid them, siting how grossly disproportionate they are to our impoverished world.
On one extreme, there are those who accuse pro-footballers of being little more than overpaid, spoiled children who throw themselves down on the pitch anytime an opponent steps on their toes. On the other, you have those who place these same players on godlike pedestals; the rise and fall of their lives tied to the stats of their favorite team or player.
For example, in the documentary, “Captains of the World”, Sophia Martinez, an Argentinian journalist covering the 2022 World cup, football’s version of the Olympics, makes a fascinating statement that sums up the profound reach football, and its heroes, have. Speaking about Lionel Messi, the legendary captain of the Argentina National team, she says, “We’ve always needed the idea of a saviour, we need a person we can hold on to and believe in.”
Think about it. This journalist, whose job it is to have her finger on the heartbeat of her audience, equates the importance of today’s football heroes with that of a saviour. A saviour, by definition, is someone who saves another from a life-threatening situation at the risk or cost of their own life.
In making this statement she inadvertently, almost prophetically, sums up how desperate the world is for someone to place their faith in. However literal she may or may not have been, she identifies a deep-seated need humanity has for someone beyond themselves, to lift them up out of the emptiness and chaos of life.
The Bible agrees with the sentiment that we’ve always needed a Saviour, someone to believe in. In fact, the entire biblical narrative centers around the coming of a Messiah, a Saviour, Jesus Christ. From its first book Genesis, to its last, Revelation, the Bible unfolds God’s plan of salvation, which finds its climax in the coming of the Son of God, Jesus, to save us from our sin and its subsequent judgments.
As much as I respect our journalist friend, her saviour doesn’t compare to the Bibles. Jesus isn’t a ‘captain of the world’, He is the “King of Kings and Lord and Lords” (Revelation 19:16). He wasn’t an inaccessible superstar living in the lap of luxury. On the contrary, this Saviour’s life and ministry are summed up in Mark 10:45, where it reads, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The Saviour of Christianity didn’t live his life in pursuit of an elusive gold cup, but He drank the cup of God’s wrath (Matthew 26:42) on our behalf, so that any who would believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
His accomplishments aren’t measured in goals and championships, but in victory over sin, Satan and death. The outcome of His sacrifice is not the fickle fame resulting from an earthly trophy, but the establishment of an eternal, unfading Kingdom, to which we have been invited.
When He is revealed from heaven at the end of the age, it won’t just be a stadium of fans cheering Jesus’ return, but all creation will shout for joy and sing His praises (Isaiah 55:12), and “every knee shall bow…every tongue… confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God.” (Philippians 2:11)
Finally, as inclusive as football is, with many inspiring stories of young unknowns rising to take the stage of world fame, the Saviour of God has come to raise a people out of the darkness and destruction of sin and make them sons and daughters of the Living God, granting them eternal life through faith in Christ alone.
The Bible is clear, the stakes of the ‘game of life’ are high. Eternal life and death. Choose life! Repent of your sins, in faith call on the powerful name of Jesus today.
“All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.”
1 Corinthians 9:25
By Pastor Tim Mattox
Paphos Calvary Chapel