Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Catholic News has a Sports Section

It is not often that you see Manchester United and Liverpool mentioned in the Catholic News, much less have a photo of a football stadium and a Liverpool player. So I thought that CN might be starting a sports section when I turned to page 8 of last weeks CN and saw the familiar red jersey and a photo of Fr John Bosco in the Standard Chartered marathon. But the heading at the top of the section was still "News".

What made it more interesting was the contrast between the anti-Catholic Red Devils fans and the Catholic faith of a Reds player and his mother. But I shall not hit a team while they are "down", moreover the team can't really control the actions and words of their fans.

I seriously doubt that CN would be able to sustain a regular sports section, unless they started to cover the Vatican Football League (Clericus Cup) or our local Archbishop's Cup. Though to their credit, I remember that they have featured articles in the past such as the Olympics. The problem is that the sporting world these days have given up their sportsmanship values, and stopped being role models for the youth. Instead it has been corrupted by money and greed, doping and bribery. Players are more interested in fame and glamour, money, partying, drinking, drugs and sex. Setting bad examples with their arrogance, infidelity and lifestyle. Which is why examples such as Jamie Carragher are hard to come by.

Not taking into account the recent "goal" he scored, Carra has been one of Liverpool's most consistent players. Maybe he is spared the temptations of fame and wealth because he is not attractive to girls like Beckham or because he's a central defender, not the most glamourous of positions. More importantly it is his behaviour both on and off the pitch that makes him a credible role model. He is not only involved in charities, but in various programs to help kids stay out of gangs through sports.

One can't help but think that his Catholic background as well as the love of his family, especially that of his mother has formed him to be the man, footballer and role model that he is.

'My book of Revelations begins with the most dramatic:
if my mum hadn't been a Roman Catholic,
I might have been aborted.

Paula Carragher was given the option of a termination
due to complications halfway through her pregnancy.
She was told I had spina-bifida- a birth defect that affects
the spinal cord. She was too religious to consider abortion,
no matter how disabled I'd be.

'Our Lord told me to have the baby', she still claims.
She's the rock on which my family is built.
I owe everything to that decision
she took thirty years ago'.
That being said, not all catholic footballers behave the same way. I used to be so proud when I see the new brazilian stars, making the sign of the cross when the entered the pitch and after they scored a goal. How they were able to use their public roles to show the importance of their faith in their lives even on the pitch and acknowledging God's role in their success. But then I also began to realise, that as fame and greatness got to their heads, the sign of the cross disappeared, replaced by fingers pointing to themselves.

Luckily there was one professional footballer, Chase Hilgenbrinck, who discovered his calling while playing for the MLS team New England Revolution, and "retired" to join the seminary.

Lastly, the Church itself also is in strong support of sports, with the Pontifical Council for the Laity organising a seminar on sports and mission, and stressing the responsibility of sports stars.

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