Religion is described as a “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Way_of_life” \o “Way of life” way of life” or a “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_stance” \o “Life stance” life stance of a particular group of people who are loyal and devoted to a belief of a superior god or gods. With the turn of events in this world, it would be perhaps more accurate to say that soccer should now be qualified as a religion because of the affection and devotion expressed by the soccer fans to their beloved sport worldwide.
Once upon a time, the essential Sunday activity was going to church in the morning but now things have changed; the essential activity is watching soccer matches in local stadiums and Sunday night soccer fixtures on television.
In Gaborone, you see the soccer fans in their blue wigs, with blue and white painted faces, going to attend matches when the national soccer team, the Zebras, is on duty.
It’s surprising that Christianity, which has more than 2 billion believer’s worldwide, ranks second among the major religions of the world. The game of soccer has a large following that attends the Church of Soccer.
It may sound as an exaggeration to call soccer a religion, but it is obviously more than a game.
If you go to the Catholics, they know well their Christian Calendar Events like Lent, Easter, Christmas. The same applies to any believer of the Word of God; they know full details about the Lord Jesus Christ.
The same devotion is found in most soccer fans, they know everything about what’s happening in the world of soccer.
They can tell you about their favourite team, locally and internationally, the best moments and the worst moments, fixtures, log standings and their favourite player’s names.
Two weeks ago, I experienced a shocking thing that made me believe that soccer is a religion.
Dynamos Football Club from Zimbabwe was playing against Gaborone United. It was the talk of the week; hardly would a conversation pass without the mention of the teams.
Like Christians wait for Christmas, soccer fans were waiting in anticipation for the important day when the big match would be staged.
Preparations were made, tickets were sold and advertising billboards were hanging all over.
When the big day finally came, it was either you are in red or blue, vuvuzelas were heard early in the morning.
Dynamos’ faithful fans came all the way from Zimbabwe to give maximum support to their team and were already in a celebrating mood though they suffered a defeat later in the day.
The GU supporters could be seen; almost everyone was in some bit of red-and-white as if they were making silent prayers to their football gods.
In Gaborone, there was no need to watch the game to know when they had scored. The horns and great explosions of cheers from every neighborhood announced the news.
In remote areas, entire villages turned out to watch the game on battered solar powered television sets. Where there was no television, they were listening on the radio.
When the game ended Dynamos supporters were celebrating because, although they had lost the encounter, their team had qualified for the next stage while GU, although winning the encounter, failed to qualify.
Like any other social group or religion, tribalism exists among the soccer fans, more passionate than you’d find in even most organized religions. Most religious leaders at least pay lip service to the brotherhood-sisterhood of those who follow other faiths or teams. But the single-minded tribalism among football fans is overwhelming. Other teams are generally considered “the enemy,” sometimes literally.
In Botswana, it’s a known fact that Gaborone United and Township Rollers are “enemies”.
Going on to the World Cup, since the announcement on the 15th of May 2004 that the World Cup will be hosted in South Africa, the hype machine has been running at full throttle, such that clothing departmental shops have turned to be Soccer departmental shops as they are packed to the rafters in preparation of the major event.
You find jerseys, icons and other paraphernalia, like Brazil jerseys, Manchester United, Arsenal jackets and t-shirts.
Is this just about the game or its now growing to be a religion just like Rastafarianism?
The quest for the World Cup, soccer’s grail, has made the wretched and ragged in Botswana feel like world-beaters. Worldwide the World Cup is dominating the news headlines in both electronic and print media.
The game of soccer is so powerful that it makes supporters weep when they lose the game.
There are even heart attacks and suicides.
Seasons or off seasons, the story is still the same; “what happened in the match was a mistake we are going to buy new players” as if they are the owners of those Soccer Clubs.
The world of soccer is slowly turning into a religion and, surprisingly the best advocates are both men and women, which is a little bit different with other religions.
There are passion killings in some societies because of misguided devotion and soccer fans are prepared to die for game results; what difference is there now?
It cannot be denied that soccer fans have declared their players their gods, for they believe in them so much.
I met a fan wearing a T-shirt inscribed, “Soccer is life, the rest are just details.”
Pele, arguably the greatest soccer player in history, described soccer in simple but emphatic terms. He called it “the beautiful game”.
Need I say more?