My BBC Radio Scotland Thought for the Day this morning was about Scotland’s World Cup Qualifier. Here’s what I said:
Tonight at Hampden Park, Scotland are up against Slovakia for the team’s most important fixture of the World Cup Qualifiers. They begin knowing both that their opponents are the favourites to win, and that that they need to prevail not only in this match, but also the next, to keep Scotland’s World Cup dream alive.
Last week two of the squad were ruled out through injury, and no-one’s under any illusions… it’s going to be a tough night. But the team often seems to flourish when they’re the underdogs.
In a week where we’ve seen large scale civil unrest in Catalonia and the awful loss of life in Las Vegas, for many it will be a relief to tune out of the news for one evening. For the squad, there will be complete focus on the job in hand. For others, the enjoyment will come from watching elite athletes do their thing; or simply from the atmosphere of being part of the crowd.
Football hadn’t been invented with the Bible was written. But the scriptures do use sport as a metaphor, describing the whole of life as a “race” to be “run with perseverance, keeping our eyes on Jesus.” The image recommends Jesus as the ultimate role model who shows us how to live life to the full. And it implies that we flourish when we choose to trust that the future can be better than the present and persevere accordingly.
It’s a recipe for life when the going gets tough, as well as in the easy times.
Sport has the capacity to help us achieve these ends too; there’s much more to it than simple escapism. Whether we are players or spectators, involvement in sport has things to teach us. About what we can achieve when we strive for a purpose; about respecting opponents regardless of our differences; about being gracious in victory; about learning from defeat; and about the joy we can experience simply through participating.
We don’t know yet whether tonight’s story will have a happy ending for Scotland. I for one live in hope. But either way, here’s to the potential for sport to bring us together, inspire us, and celebrate our common humanity.
And – waddy a know – we lived to tell the tale!