“Religion is the opium of the masses.” – Karl Marx
Quite Karl, but shopping centres, multiplex cinemas and reality TV are just as popular now. All are escape valves that that don’t require engaging the brain too much and distract people from bigger issues, but in their own way they also provide reasons to go on. Some oddballs such as Star Wars geeks or Trekkies might even get close to some kind of worship.
Not to mention football which doesn’t hide from any of this. Imagine the FA Cup final without a rendition of Abide with Me. Is there a better rendition of modern day faith than fans singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in unison? There’s even a Church of Maradona. But all over the world, those who throw their scarves onto the pitch after a bad result may be back next week in good faith.
Religion dominates the individual’s primary worldview and dictates thoughts and actions. It can extend to causes, principles, or zealous activities concerning matters of ethics or conscience. Look no further than Jazz the Pole’s Protestant conversion. It would never have come about if he hadn’t become a Rangers fan.
Someone else defined religion as a feeling of absolute dependence. Well, summer is the worst time for guys like my mate Willie. The Citadel is his church and it’s tough to go it alone when they lock the gates for a couple of months. His mother died recently too and it will take him some time to come to terms with that. But the new season starts next weekend, and Breogan Citadel are playing at home, so that should help. He’ll begin the rituals all over again. Dig out the scarf, wash and iron it so it’s clean, fresh and full of hope. Put on the right socks for luck, have a quick pint in Blackies before passing through the turnstyles at Bucht Loan Park. When Willie dies, that’s where they’ll scatter his ashes. No doubt about it. But for now, he’ll sit in the executive seats as a proud new member of the Citadel board.
At the more exotic end of the scale, fans go abroad on football pilgrimages. The colour and spectacle of the cathedral of noise is encapsulated in Marco Tardelli’s reaction to scoring for Italy in the 3-1 final win over West Germany in the Bernabeu. Devotion to the cause. A gift from an individual to his people. Divine intervention almost. Ecstacy. Better than sex? It was too early for me to form a genuine opinion on that but suffice to say it felt like football mattered again.
From Countries of the World ©2011 Steven Porter/Breogan Books