Sunday, 8 June 2014

The game before the game

A father talks to his son.

Images of Brazil float by.  The magic waves.  The favellas climbing the hills.  Christ the redeemer.

The son gets ready for the game.

So does the world.  Other players.  Other prayers.  Focus.  Ritual.  The game is about to start.

The game.

Yes, it's Neymar Sr. speaking to Neymar Jr.  The latter's name is on the backs of millions of yellow Brazil football jerseys.  

And yes it's all about a 90 minute game where a round bladder is booted up and down a grassy field.

And yes, it's an ad for a pair of costly head-phones (that the Apple company snapped up recently).

But at the gripping core of the story is the intense pressure, the hopes and dreams that go into futbol, the brutal intersect between the huge expectations of the masses and masses - and the private world of a single elite athelete who is about to walk down the tunnel and into the game.

The worlds of fierce desire and multiple people at multiple levels hoping praying frenzied.  And in the midst of it - the players them selves steeling their thoughts.  In their private silences.  Going through the rituals of getting every muscle honed.  Of controlling every thought and focussing on the game to come.

The video ends with Neymar Jr. striding to the white door of the game.   You hear his father's final words ringing in his ears:

"Put God's army in front of you.

Wear God's armour

From the helmet to the sandals

Go with God.

God bless you.

I love you."

Neymar Jr. closes his eyes.  And as the sound of the crowd roars, opens them.

And your imagination takes him the next step into the arena.  Ready for action.


Needless to say - this video has been playing in my mind over the last two days.   Its deeply visceral.  It captures the rapturous anticipation of the world cup futbol craziness.   And also that strange disconnect that elite athletes have - where they are able to tune out all the extraneous - and be totally focused on their game.

But what of this:  I am living a far more important life that a football tournament.   And yet how casually I take most of it.

Neymar Sr. is actually quoting the apostle Paul who urges the followers of Jesus in the city of Ephesus to put on the full armour of God.

How much do I do so in the day in and day out of my life?

How much do I devote to shambolic leisure and time-waste - instead of focusing things that matter?

How much do I allow myself to be taken along by the currents and tides - rather than swimming resolutely in the direction of my Master?

How much do I realise that my whole life may be seen in the brevity of a 90 minute game.  You can't believe how fast it is spinning by.

Having reached 45 this would be a half-time if I were to reach the grand old age of ninety.  Chances are I will be substituted off the field somewhere in the mid-seventies.

And what of the real prize?  Not a gold cup.  But the vast stretch of eternity.  All dependent on the game that is going on right now.

Focus.  Eyes closed.  Open them.  Step into the white door.  Eternity.

won't you, follow me, into the jungle...

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