Sporting Godsby David Dunton / 22.07.2009
After watching Brazil win the Confederations Cup, my blood began to boil. Not because some namby-pamby soccer player had taken one Oscar dive too many. Or because Brazil’s exuberance in beating Bafana in the previous round verged on arrogance. But rather because Kaka and his fellow glory boys whipped off their playing shirts to reveal under-shirts bearing slogans like ‘I belong to Jesus’ and ‘I love Jesus’.
Sorry, what? Did I miss something? I thought I was watching a game of football here. By all means worship whoever you like Mr Kaka, but please do it in private. I’m tuned to Supersport here, not the fucken Rhema channel. If you must, preach to all your friends about this wonderful Jesus fellow, but sorry, an international sports field is not the place for advertising your religion.
Last time I looked we were living in a free, secular society – each unto his own spiritual choice and religious identity. Kaka’s little stunt felt a bit like one of those Jehovah’s Witnesses who gatecrash your languid Sunday afternoon newspaper reading session. Fuck off! Arsehole. What gives you the right to ram your dogma down my throat? Some exaggerated sense of misguided self-righteousness per chance?
But Kaka & his band of Samba missionaries are not alone in practicing this brand of invasive evangelism. Some of our very own sporting icons have also mixed their sporting & religious metaphors. Jaco van der Westhuizen’s religious arrogance went even a step further than Kaka’s. After winning the 2007 Super 14 final our lad climbed aloft the crossbar of the rugby poles wearing a ‘Jesus is king’ T-shirt, and waved messianically to the crowd. However, with the slogan being scrawled in koki, Jaco’s effort was a little less effective than Kaka’s; but what he lacked in finesse he more than made up for with gobsmacking egotism. The man’s lack of perspective and awareness of the diverse world around him makes me cringe. I mean what are all the religious Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Budhists left to think.
One has to surmise that the underlying implication of these actions is the belief that, ‘I won because Jesus/God is on my side.’ Actually no, one doesn’t have to surmise this, because legions of sports people tell us that this is so in their victory speeches. Is it just me, or this an utterly ridiculous notion. As if God’s up there in the clouds somewhere pulling strings for the team that’s prayed the hardest? And what about when a Christian team plays a Muslim one? Are we meant to believe that Big G and Allah are having an arm-wrestle over the result? The Williams sisters are always holding forth about how Jehovah helps them win, but who’s side was he on when they played each other in the Wimbledon Final? Eish, that’s a tough one. Maybe he just let the best player win. Now there’s a novel and enlightened concept.
Its common wisdom that sport is in its essence a modern, more civilised alternative to war. But people still take up arms and kill each other using their religious zealotry as the excuse. As Richard Jeni said, a religious war basically amounts to “killing each other to see who’s got the better imaginary friend.” It bewilders me how full-grown adults of apparently sane mind continue to delude themselves that it is their imaginary friend who helps them shoot straighter, hit the ball harder or run faster. It’s you, you silly nana! You won. You lost. Deal with it.
So if it’s not about having omnipotent imaginary friends, what is sport all about then? What is at the bottom of the sport rabbit hole? I think the crux of the whole thing is best summed up in a line I saw on… yes, you guessed it… a T-shirt. It read, ‘The sports team from my area is better than the one from your area.’ And that’s all there is folks. Me vs You. Simple competition. Human nature. Yes, part of the same human nature that makes some people want to believe in imaginary friends that help them win. But surely, surely we’re evolving beyond buying that kaka? At the very least, I think we’ve moved beyond it being okay for sports stars to use their fame to foist personal religious propaganda onto us.