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Idol Chatter

Are you salivating in anticipation of watching the great Ronaldinho of Brazil in action? Can’t wait to see Germany’s Michael Ballack use the home-turf advantage to chew up his opponents? Or perhaps it’s the thought of the Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba out to prove that African teams have the discipline and ability to win big that gets you fired up. What? You mean you don’t know who I’m talking about? It’s the World Cup, baby! Soccer’s crowning glory is back again after four agonizing years to unite the world under the banner of gamesmanship, excitement, nail-biting matches, crazy fans, mesmerizing players, and passionate faith.

Soccer is truly the universal sport, the one athletic game that nearly every youth dabbles in at some point. And the World Cup is the pinnacle of the sport, an event that has fans all over taking off work and dropping all other activities to gather around the television at homes, restaurants, and pubs and root for their favorite teams.

It’s a time when sports prayers reach their feverish climax, when the most non-religious people will throw their hands up in a passionate plea to God at some crucial moment, praying for that player to make (or block) that goal. And that’s what I love about it.

Did you ever get scolded for wasting a prayer on something trivial, like—oh, say—the outcome of a game? I remember a time when my then teen-aged brother was watching his beloved San Francisco 49ers play in the Superbowl (in the late 1980s), and saw some fan cross himself at a crucial moment. My brother was inspired. He dropped to his knees, lifted up his hands, and began reciting all the Islamic prayers he could remember, beseeching Allah to help his 49ers win. My mom lit into him: “Don’t waste your prayers; don’t waste Allah’s time on a football game!”

I turned to her (I must’ve been about 10 or 12 at the time) and said, “Mummy, prayers are infinite. You can’t ever waste a prayer, no matter what you’re praying for! And don’t you think God likes to have a little fun too?” She just laughed and acquiesced to my beliefs. (By the way, the 49ers won that day!)

And so, bring on the World Cup and all its passionate fans. Bring on the hopes and dreams of legions of soccer fans in countries around the world, praying for Ronaldinho to make magic or for the United States to gain some respect in the soccer world. Let the fun and faith begin.

Ole, ole, ole, ole!

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