Batuhan: Heaven on Earth-A A +A
Saturday, June 23, 2012
EUROPE’S religious are a dwindling lot.
In England, for example, home to what had been the largest Christian denomination outside the Catholic Church until recent times, churches are viewed largely as historical places of interest and curiosity, rather than as places of devout worship.
The reasons for the decline are varied.
The rise of humanist and materialistic philosophies seem to account for a significant amount of the dropouts. It seems that as people became more and more self-sufficient in their needs, their reliance on an external power to look up to and revere also became less and less. This is consistent with the phenomenon that the more developed the country, the less likely its people are to be religious.
In Europe, though, a new religion has taken hold of people’s devotion. Where they used to flock to Westminster Abbey and Winchester Cathedral, they now troop in droves to Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge. Where Milan Cathedral once attracted huge crowds, it is now in San Siro where the crowds congregate.
Yes, football—or soccer for the American-oriented—has become the new religion. For most of the world, but more so in Europe. And during the last couple of weeks and the couple of weeks to follow, not many events—no matter how dramatic—will be able to capture the imagination of Europeans than the centre stage of their religion, otherwise known as the Euros.
It seems inconceivable, even unbelievable just some years back to imagine that
young kids would revere Steven Gerrard more than Saint George, or worship Andy Carroll rather than Saint Andrew. But they do. There is just no escaping this phenomenon.
It is difficult, even at this distance, not to be drawn to this huge sporting spectacle that is the Euros. Much as I value my sleep, I still find myself up and about at 2:45 in the morning, for the last few mornings, just to be able to catch a glimpse of my favorite stars play. These are, after all, some of the biggest names in all of sport, and to see them play each other in one venue is simply too incredible to imagine.
Unfortunately, real-world Europe is not all that upbeat and rosy.
News from Greece is bleak, and that is accentuating the positive. Former highly-paid professionals and skilled workers now find themselves out of work, and standing in line at the many soup kitchens around Athens is the only way they are able to keep their bodies whole. Elsewhere on the continent, the outlook is not any rosier. Spain is beset by any number of problems, and so are its neighbors Italy and Portugal. The UK is unspared, with Moody’s this week downgraded a host of banks in Britain, and on the continent.
And yet, on the football pitch all seems fine and dandy. The Spanish La Rojas confidently strut their stuff about the field, as if everything in their country is hanky dory. The Greek national team looks nothing like the denizens of their ubiquitous soup kitchens, as they prepare to tackle the team from the mighty economy of Germany.
Europe is a sad place to be at the moment. Nothing is certain, and every new day is a struggle. But at least, while the continent’s largest sporting spectacle goes on, all pain and misery are forgotten. For four weeks at least—for the many Europeans who have known nothing but despair in recent times— it feels as if heaven were right here on earth.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 23, 2012.