Bring on Brazil!
By Major Chick Yuill
I love football. Not the game played by 250 lb. men wearing helmets and shoulder pads, the game with regular time-outs, half-time extravaganzas and the funny shaped ball that is carried and thrown far more often than it is kicked! No, I mean real football. I guess that I’d better call it soccer since I’m writing for an American audience! I love the “beautiful game,” as the great Pele described it, the game played with a round ball which is lovingly passed to feet by players who depend on skill and cardiovascular fitness rather than size and weight to make an impact.
Truth to tell, I would have played soccer professionally were it not for the fact that I’m utterly bereft of genuine talent! But I love soccer with a passion that shows no sign of diminishing with the years. And life is good for this soccer-loving, exiled Scot. For a start, shortly after I arrived in Pasadena, Major League soccer was established and the Los Angeles Galaxy made their home at the Rose Bowl. Watching soccer in that great stadium as the sun sets over the San Gabriel mountains is arguably the nearest thing to heaven this side of eternity.
But there’s more. Next year, 32 nations who have come through the preliminary rounds will compete in the finals of the soccer World Cup. And Scotland will be among them. As you can imagine, my joy has been unrestrained since they qualified for the final stages in France. But just a couple of days ago, harsh reality broke into my state of near-euphoria when the draw was made for initial games of the tournament. For once again, the passionate and enthusiastic Scots were drawn against the soccer masters from Brazil.
This is the fourth time in the history of the World Cup that the two nations have been pitted against each other, and if history is any guide, we’re unlikely to win against the world’s leading soccer nation. The worst experience was way back in 1982 in Spain. Scotland scored the first goal–a spectacular effort which brought tears of joy to the eyes of every Scot. It turned out to be a terrible mistake. The goal only served to upset the Brazilians, who scored four goals in reply. In fact, their dominance was such that it could have been 10!
I must admit that I was plunged into a soccer depression, but only until I read the London Times. The report on the World Cup draw had an entirely different perspective. Scotland, said the Times, “has everything to gain and nothing to lose. If they don’t go through…there will be no recriminations, and if they were to get through, everybody will be singing their praises. What more inspirational way could there be to start a tournament than in a brand-new stadium against the world champions?
The Times is right, of course. When the odds are stacked against you, all you can do is give of your best. Victory lies in acquitting yourself with honor. Whether you win or lose is almost incidental. Since I’m writing for New Frontier and not Sports Illustrated, I need to ask myself whether there’s a lesson for life here, a pointer for all who take part in the moral and spiritual struggle that is far more important than any sporting contest. I believe there is. On more than one occasion, as they sought to occupy the land God had promised them, the people of Israel had to face opponents who were far stronger in terms of military might. But God taught them that they should neither fear the foe nor fret about the victory. They should neither be discouraged by past defeats nor intimidated by seemingly overwhelming odds. The battle belongs to the Lord! The best they could do–the best we can do–is to stand for truth and right-eousness and leave the outcome to God.
Like my soccer-playing countrymen, we have nothing to lose. Unlike them, however, we do not simply fight for the sake of honor. We are assured of victory. However many personal defeats we may have experienced over the years, the decisive battle in the struggle of right against wrong has already been won on a green hill outside of Jerusalem.
When the malign nature of the evil one and the magnitude of the difficulties confronting us would tempt us to leave the field, we, too, need to see it from a different perspective and ask the question: “What greater inspiration could there be than to fight for right and to play a part in the downfall of evil?” The best a soccer player can achieve is a winner’s medal; the Christian can win the crown of life.