The blow of the whistle on the 9th of June in the main stadium of Munich will inaugurate the start of the World Cup between the teams of thirty-two countries which reached the finals. Another blow of the whistle on the 9th of July in the Olympic stadium of Berlin will terminate the world tournament. This sixty-fourth match will reveal the winner of the quadrennial event.

Whether you call it football or soccer, this game beyond any argument is the number one sport in the world. During the contest, millions will be involved in another game — speculating on the possible winners through Lotto Sport. Many will lose money. Some may make a fortune. Millions will be plunged into sorrow, either because of the defeat of their team or through loss of money. At the end of the games, one nation will be presented with the cup in impressive glitter. Old stars will fade away; new stars and new football millionaires will emerge. Some trainers will be obliged to resign because their team couldn’t make it. Afterwards, everybody will be looking forward to the next World Cup in 2010 in South Africa, a ‘first’ on the African continent.

Vast numbers of fans will travel to Germany from everywhere. Alongside the teams will come managers, referees, trainers, media personnel, doctors, therapists and business promoters. This fascinating contest will ultimately determine the World Cup holder for four years. People everywhere are speculating about the Cup winner. Will the host country claim the Cup? Many doubt it. Perhaps Brazil will again vie for victory in the final, or it may just be a complete outsider!

More than in any other previous tournament dread of terrorism will be the persistent consternation. Swelling hooliganism is another cause of trepidation. At times, the blustering conduct of spectators or intruders can bring disgrace and disaster on the occasion. Performance-enhancing substances by certain players constitute a serious concern. Add to these the recent reports of corruption and various scandals widely witnessed in the arena of football. All are apt to turn this multi-billion dollar rated sport into an enterprise with multifarious demands. A further major concern is the negative impact on the environment through the boundless tons of trash left behind. Vast amounts of money have been allotted for order and protection. Another dimension to human depravity affecting the occasion are gain masters feverishly at work with cunning stratagem to trap young women and teen-agers from countries to the East. Their objective is to supply modern sex slaves as commodity for deceptive pleasure. This heinous villainy exploiting an outwardly glittering international event will draw many men to a grievous pitfall. The days when sports events were a benign and well-mannered encounter are a thing of the past. In these games fear is amalgamated with thrill.

Against the agitating unpleasantries already mentioned, a heartening activity will be noticed everywhere. Volunteer evangelists from many lands will be telling people who follow the excitement of football about the greatest thrill of all: Finding forgiveness of their sin in Christ and discovering the purpose and essence of life. Christians everywhere are praying that people whose thoughts are centered on football will comprehend and receive the supreme offer of Christ into their lives. A wide variety of literature in many languages is already circulating.

Besides those who will have the privilege of watching the games in Germany’s twelve main stadiums, it is estimated that approximately two billion spectators will passionately follow the matches on their TV screens. The exuberance of football is peculiar to itself. All over the world, hundreds of millions are loyal fans. When football is discussed, differences are laid aside. Fans everywhere have the same sentiments, emotions and devotion. Any famous player is respected the world over. How many transformations this amazing game has undergone since it was first played in England! The rules of football made by FIFA are the same everywhere. In 1883 there were thirteen rules of the game drawn up in England. Today under FIFA, the articles have grown to seventeen. Football experts are constantly teaching new techniques, writing books and articles, making countless videos and giving lectures. There are football schools in several parts of the world.

The renowned Pele whose skill became a saga is still considered a respected authority on football. But what disgrace Maradona brought on his own reputation and the sport! Numerous yellow and red cards will be held up to players who advertently or inadvertently commit an offence during the games. Sometimes, poor judgment on the part of the referee causes deep disappointment or even the loss of a game. An English player of the past, Gary Lineker, was never shown a yellow card, much less a red one. The aim of football is to pass the ball skillfully and fascinatingly from player to player until the play climaxes in a masterful goal. The goal keeper in kicking off the ball which he caught aims at the onward advance of his team. Every player in the backfield strives with equal concentration to assist those who play in the forward. Imaginative midfield play generates excitement. But the definitive delight is when the ball makes it way through the 7.32 x 2.44-meter goal post. If this doesn’t happen the excitement of the game is stolen. We are at a time when Africa and Asia are producing able players. Today’s European clubs are actively recruiting African players to their teams, notwithstanding wanton racist jeers from the ranks of the spectators.

Whether we like this game or not, it reminds us all of another contest. To what extent have you comprehended life’s design and target? Are you heading to absolute triumph following a purposeful life, or to shaking defeat? What is your accomplishment in the critical game of this brief life? To achieve it, you don’t need to be athletic, affluent or a person of position. You are involved in a crucial engagement that is much more serious than the one played on the field. There is a goal more fascinating than that craved by the hundreds of millions of football fans around the world. That is to encounter Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Rewarder of your priceless life. The Almighty God is the organizer of life’s contest and Jesus Christ its coordinator for brilliant achievement. During the games, the trainers’ contribution is paramount. No success in life or eternity can be attained without the most skillful of all trainers, Jesus Christ, who has full knowledge of all of life’s secrets and intricacies. He has paved the way for you with his atoning, redeeming blood. You are probably familiar with every rule of effective football. It is worthwhile to examine the life of Christ so that you can know his power to save and organize any individual who is run aground, including you.

The mighty Creator placed each one of us in the arena of the world and wishes to grant us total victory. God is fully aware of your ineptness to attain the triumph and the ultimate crown. The pitch is strewn with failed players. Earnest efforts could not secure the longed-for victory. So it is in the contest of life. Therefore, the heavenly Father sent his only Son from heaven. In his Incarnation he came to live among us and declared, “I am the way.” His wish is to lead each life to definitive triumph. He is the only one who offers ultimate victory to everyone. A person who lived nearly two thousand years ago and submitted his life to the Savior-trainer wrote: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” Paul to Timothy, 2 Timothy 4:7, 8. Unless you turn your faulty life, no matter how good a player you seem to be, over to the Master Achiever, you will continue collecting yellow and red cards. This is apt to thrust you from one grief to another. Remember that Christ is the one who will blow the ultimate whistle which will declare the winner and the loser. Wouldn’t you like to be on his winning team?

Thomas Cosmades — 2006