My first memory as a fan of Australian Rules football more than fifty years ago was that it was enshrined as a ‘religion’ in this town, where worship of the oval ball out marked the powerful prayers from the pulpit.
The players seemed endowed with a particular faith that transcended mass gatherings in an old brick building, pursuing their passion in the pouring rain and howling winds of winter without protection of God Almighty. Or was he/she watching while we were otherwise engaged in the excitement of following football? I cannot really comprehend the truth of God’s existence, but I gained valuable insight into a more personal faith that football generated for me; namely, self-belief.
While the religious fervour celebrated in churches may ordain ordinary people as believers, it is the intrinsic sense of self-belief we all need to achieve our dreams, alongside a strong, innate confidence and adherence to a religious work ethic that all help contribute to a community of well-being. As a team game, football also inspired me to co-operate and communicate with my colleagues in the workplace, as well as encouraging my competitive streak to make the most of myself and realise my potential.
As a female, I was forbidden to play the game way back in the 60s during my adolescence, but I poured over newspaper stories about many players who all talked about ‘backing themselves’, ‘bouncing back’, taking risks, and even more significantly perhaps, countenancing failure as well as success. Disappointment at a loss was as much part of their careers on the field as off the field, teaching me that coping and understanding loss was an imperative in life. Despite their mistakes and failure in some games, the faith in themselves and each other was indomitable, shrugging off defeat as temporary and always positive about the next week. It wasn’t just this mental tenacity that moved me to model myself on footballers’ psychological and spiritual attributes, but they also had to maintain peak, physical prowess by eating healthily and drinking moderately. In their own way, even if their team didn’t win the premiership, the personal faith they embodied enlightened me about how to win my own premiership by developing a strong sense of self-belief and faith that is still extant today. While some footballers now might be slightly tarnished idols in traditional religion, they can work miracles in an altogether unexpected way for many of us who love the game. You just have to borrow their faith and make it your own!
By Paulyne Pogorelske