“All I know most surely about morality and obligation I owe to football”,
The poisoned chalice
I can't remember who coined the phrase in relation to the England coach's job but it was an appropriate one. England's failure to qualify for Euro 2008 has cost Steve McClaren his job.
After the 2006 World Cup we could not wait to get rid of Sven. Steve and Sven are not the first England head coaches/managers to come under pressure. Remember the heading - Swedes 2 Turnips 1 - when Graham Taylor's England lost to Sweden and the Taylor's face, superimposed on a turnip.
When Glenn Hoddle, arguable became the first person in England to lose his job over his beliefs, it was as it people were sitting in ambush, waiting their opportunity to sack him. Being a World Cup winner in 1966 did not save Alf Ramsay's job four years later. When Kevin Keegan resigned after the pre 2002 defeat by Germany, the pressure was written all over his face.
Now we all have our opinions about whether England should play 4-5-1 or 4-4-2 about the diamond or the Christmas tree and whether or not Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney can play together. The only difference is that we have the opinions without the responsibility!
It is sadly a fact of life that if you are the England head coach, not only will you be vilified in the tabloids but your private life will be fair game for the media. It can be a lonely existence. OK there is a pretty good salary but surely a human being is also entitled to be treated with dignity.
In 2002 Scripture Union and Damaris Trust contributed to the debate with their publication "What does the Bible say about Sven on football" (ISBN 1 85999 690 6).
As people who love sport and who love Jesus, what should be our attitude to Sven, Steve and the rest? In Romans 13 Paul tells us to respect those in authority. While Paul is really referring to political powers, - not the head coach of the Isthmian Games team, there is an application. We should respect the authorities in our sports. Jesus command to love our neighbour as ourself is also relevant.
We should pray for our national coaches. Are you praying regularly for those in authority in your sport? Drop them a note of appreciation and support.