Believing on the turf is more common. No less than ten – remember this number – pages wide Zeitgeist to the religious coming-out that has taken place on the national football fields in recent years. More and more football players are expressing their belief in the Supreme Arbiter, whether they call it God or Allah.
So you see a goalkeeper close his eyes and effects are in his ears. “It’s my way of thanking God and showing that I am blind and deaf to the world, to people’s opinion,” said the Barcelona and Orange striker. Hopefully God knows how to appreciate it.
The question is, who in the end really scores when Memphis pushes the ball into the ropes and then sends his thanks to heaven: Himself or God? And when the goalkeeper, also a man of faith, lets the ball from Memphis slip through his hands, does that mean he didn’t pray hard enough?
In the article mentioned above, the Amsterdam pastor and ‘hope giver’ Martijn Rutgers is also quoted. He knows the person behind the footballer. “A footballer knows that he can do his best, but that many other factors play a role that he has a great influence on. Hence the tendency before, during and after the match to focus on God who still has everything in His hand.” Trust in heaven’s protection and everything will be fine.
An insecure life, poverty and then also that volcano
If they believe that anywhere, it’s in Naples. That city has at least two capable saints who protect the city from mischief of all kinds.
To start with, there is Saint Januarius, known in Naples as San Gennaro, who was martyred in 305. You can see it all over the city, with its red miter and bishop’s crook. In the bar, on walls as a life-size painting of a statue of a saint in the living room. It all seems so picturesque in Naples: those small streets, life on the street, a singer on a balcony. But behind all this gaiety is an uncertain life full of poverty. And then there’s that volcano that could come back to life at any moment.
In 1631, San Gennaro personally prevented Vesuvius from erupting and became the city. It’s nice that as a city you have your own ambassador in heaven. Three times a year his blood is taken out, the physical evidence of the alliance between Naples and San Gennaro. If the blood liquefies, that’s a good sign. If not, disaster will follow. Like in 1980, when the city was hit by an earthquake.
Two years ago, San Gennaro was joined in heaven by the man who was already holy in his lifetime: Diego Armando Maradona. The brilliant football player with the 10 shirt number champion of Italy and started the World Cup with Argentina in 1986, partly by scoring by hand. That was the hand of God, Maradona said. He already spoke the language of the miracle worker.
An altar to Mardona
He too is everywhere in Naples. In Bar Nilo, in the old town, a few hairs of Maradona are kept in a reliquary. Up there, in what looks like an ampoule, the tears he shed Naples left the city in 1991. In the Quartieri Spagnoli, the Spanish quarter, is his most beautiful sanctuary. A small square, with shirts, flags, a real altar and Maradona depicted as San Gennaro. The symbiosis is complete. Naples is in good hands.
How nice it would be if Amsterdam, in addition to Saint Nicholas, would also have Johan Cruijff as its patron saint, even if he was not Catholic. A two-man government from heaven for the capital. Sint-Nolaas, of course, everyone entrusted to his care such as the sailors, Johan Cruijff possibly, who the holy bishop does not get to. That’s fine, because Cruijff knows everything about everything. No volcano in Amsterdam that is about to erupt, but there are plenty of other problems. I only mention the housing shortage in our capital.
I hope that the bishop of Haarlem will speed up the appointment of the new patron saint. The form of most Ajax players leaves a lot to be desired at the moment. The national championship is no longer a matter of course.
Heaven must intervene.
Trouw editor Fens has been following the Stijn church closely for decades and writes columns about faith and personal life. Read them back here.