The Helping Hand Of God In The Unibond League


I’m about to do something a lot of you will likely frown on. I’m aware of this, and I do apologise. I don’t know what I was thinking. Perhaps all of those sugar pills last weekend scrambled my brain. Perhaps aliens visited me at night and implanted this wild, crazy and completely inappropriate idea into my mind (hey, at least they stayed up THAT end this time). Perhaps I’m just spoiling for a rumble. In any case, there’s no getting away from it, this is happening:

I’m going to talk about football.

I know, I know, IknowIknowIknow. You guys, our lovely readers, are scientists, science fans, and generally science types. As am I. But when I’m not talking Cold Reading with psychics, organising mass non-suicide or generally being a good-for-nothing skeptic, there are few things I love more than settling down to a good match. The poetry of movement, the grit of teamwork, the drama, the excitement, the cliches.

Oh, and the batshit lunacy.

I’ve spoken elsewhere about the superstition rife in football (it was my handy hook to hang the story of Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie’s horse placenta treatment on, you may recall. If you can’t recall, please head over and have a read. Horse placentas. Lol. Etc.), but this time I’m bringing things back home. We are, after all, the Merseyside Skeptics Society, and no amount of International campaign-running (yes, I’m going to milk 10:23 for all of the kudos I can get, what of it?) will change that. Which is why when I was sent this article by a listener to our podcast, I just had to take a look at it.

A struggling football club has resorted to asking a priest to bless its pitch in a bid to stop a run of bad luck

Yep, this is 2010 and we’re still asking the clergy to bless this mess and give us good luck. So, what kind of demonic bad luck have the Marine boys been having? Did centre forward Liam Rushton get tripped over by a ghost when clean through on goal, without so much as an indirect free-kick? Did ‘keeper Tim Dittmer get distracted by a succubus during a crucial counter-attack? Did centre back Michael Jackson (no, not THAT Michael Jackson) turn green, rotate his head 306 degrees and do unspeakable things with a crucifix? Well, as the BBC puts it, not quite:

So far this season three Marine FC players have hobbled off the pitch with broken bones.

And during a game which Marine were winning 2-1 at their stadium in Crosby, Merseyside, the floodlights died – cancelling the match.

Ah, so it was pretty standard footballing fare, then. Still, having a priest come over and do his whole il nomine thingummy bit could only improve matters…

Father John Ealey, of St Aloysius in Roby, said a prayer and poured holy water on the turf on Tuesday… Chairman Paul Leary said if it took banishing demons to improve their season, he was willing to give it a go.

Personally, I’m a big fan of the Football Manager series, which strives at every turn to replicate every subtle nuance of the Beautiful Game (TM). I therefore can’t wait for the option in FM 2011 to invite a local priest over for a spot of chanting and splashing.

Manager Kevin Lynch spoke to the club’s website about the helping hand of God:

Our form has not been great at home and we have had an horrendous injury list – I just feel that there are a couple of demons out there we need to get rid of.

I have known Father Ealey a long time, and for me personally, I will feel better that the pitch has had the blessing of God. It makes me feel a lot better in terms of my own faith.

Since the blessing, Marine FC have suffered defeats at the hands of Retford United and Bradford Park Avenue. I guess God really is a Red around these parts.

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  1. #1 by Tom Williamson on February 6, 2010 - 10:53

    I’m a big fan of football myself, I could probably go on about Norwich City all day (top of the league, come on!). We used to have a goalkeeper call Bryan Gunn who would run up to, jump up at, and pretend to headbutt the crossbar before the start of ever game. This was accompanied by a “ohhhhhhhh…OOOH!” from the crowd every time, and it became somewhat of a superstition. Paul Ince, the former Manchester United player, used to put his shirt on at the last possible minute.

    Exorcism of pitches is nothing new either. In October last year, a priest performed one at Belgian side Racing Genk. The President of the club resigned on the same day (http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/23102009/58/international-football-priest-performs-exorcism-stadium.html). I’m pretty sure a similar thing happened at Birmingham City 15 years ago. They even had a strip made that looked like it had a dog collar!

    Theres loads in this telegraph article (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/leagues/premierleague/arsenal/4805924/Top-10-Football-superstitions-to-rival-Arsenals-Kolo-Toure.html)

  2. #2 by Yorkshire Skeptic on February 6, 2010 - 18:21

    @Tom Williamson: Leeds will be back on top soon enough! 😛

    Don Revie did the same sort of thing down at Leeds United in the 60’s…only he got a gypsy instead of a priest in to remove a ‘curse’ on Elland Road. Very eccentric manager by all accounts:

    ‘Revie’s waking hours were riddled with phobias and rituals; taking the same route to his dug out before a match, a fear of ornamental elephants, a readiness to believe that a gypsy curse on Elland Road was preventing his side winning, even a distaste for birds on pictures or as motifs…That’s the reason the peacock was eventually taken off the club badge. He wouldn’t have birds.’

    http://www.mightyleeds.co.uk/managers/revie6.htm

    I see football as a pseudo-religion;
    -You generally follow the team that you live nearest too or that your parents support.
    -Each team has it’s saints (Jermaine Beckford) and anti-christs (Peter Ridsdale).
    -Regardless of how crappy your team is you stick with them, regardless of empirical evidence and reason.
    -Followers will pay exorbitant amounts of money to support their teams.

    Swap the word ‘team’ with ‘religion’ and you’ll see what i mean!

  3. #3 by London Lulz on February 8, 2010 - 02:30

    Most religious people I know are generally against the prostitution of God. After all – if one does exist, why on earth would he care about who wins this match?

    More likely this is to reassure players and fans. Like when medieval armies used to fight both of them would recruit priests to bless the troops and award them crosses (designating them “cruci-signati” – “signed with the cross”).

    This isn’t superstition, don’t believe that it is. This is all out capitalism – money for reassurative services.

    This is as far removed from real christianity as getting oneself debaptised is from atheism

  4. #4 by Chris on February 8, 2010 - 12:08

    I can’t believe this, its only down the road from me aswell. eurrgghhh I groaned when reading this for the first time on BBC news.

    Can the priest explain why a demon/ghost/evil entity would want to curse a football pitch in the first place?

    Unless someone else in the league had devil worshippers on side and got them to sabotage Marines ground?

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