Jesus saves – but St John puts in the rebound

Let’s start today with some World Cup 2010 religious news. The Egyptian squad currently playing in Angola during the African Nations Cup doesn’t contain a single Christian because coach Hassan Shehata now only selects pious players who are, in his words, “on good terms with God”.

There are some historical precedents to linking football and religion. Oliver Cromwell tried this during his ill-fated World Cup campaign of 1660 only to find his players were absentmindedly destroying religious icons. The Puritans eventually lost 1 – 0 despite the late intervention of substitute Richard Cromwell, who had to come on because his father had died.

John Wesley, the pulpit-pounding father of Methodism, struck fear into the heart of communities across Britain with his mighty sermons decrying faithlessness and immorality. But of course he did his best work as a no-nonsense centre half for Halifax from 1761 – 70.

More recently, Dr Ian Paisley, famous for his cry of No Surrender, spoke of his trial with Manchester United in the late nineteen forties during a largely ignored interview. Apparently Paisley was on the verge of signing for Matt Busby before someone whispered in his ear “This is the club of Satan. One day the number of the beast will emerge from its accounts in red ink and that number will be 666 (million in debt).”

I’m glad Egypt didn’t qualify for the World Cup now. Shehata can hint all he likes about the malign influence of non-God botherers. The simple truth is they left it too late and were exhausted when the play off with Algeria arrived. It didn’t have anything to do with religious beliefs of the players. Here’s the article in full.

Some people are far behind the news curve. Take “In Entertainment”, the website offering “The latest news on celebrities, music, movies and TV”. The site has just announced Rik Mayall’s World Cup song, even though it was revealed here first in September. What next on “In Entertainment”? Judy Garland dies?

I’d choose Hart, Richards and Dawson out of this list of dark horses. The rest have about as much chance of going to South Africa as I do.

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