God in World Cup Football – Or Is It Soccer?

Jul 3, 2010

Do officials sometimes issue Yellow cards to wrong players at the wrong time based on wrong decisions? Does that sometimes force some of the most important players to sit out some of the most important games to their side?

Does a similar thing happen with the Red card? And do these carding decisions by referees impact the outcomes of games?

You can minimize these errors, but how do you eliminate them?

Football a Game of Uncertain Outcomes

You can see that I can go on and on like this, but here is the gist of what I am saying: If the game is football, the outcome is always in doubt.

And no matter how much the best coaches and players are in charge, the most critical part of the game is always out of their control. So much so that there will be no football and no World Cup if the game were completely controllable and predictable.

So what exactly is going on in World Cup Soccer and who really is in charge – of the game; of the players; of the officials; of the happenings on the field; of the happenings off the field; and of everything else in between?

In other words, this is what I am saying: There will be no football – and no World Cup – if you took God out of it.

Lau kaanoo ya’alamoon, as the Qur’an says. Paraphrase: If only people knew and understood that simple fact!

Zidane Headbutt and the Rise and Fall of Humanity

Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the Zinedine Zidane incident. But first some general observations.

Zidane was wrong in head-butting the Italian player Marco Materazzi, regardless of what the latter may have said or done to provoke him. That is not acceptable behavior on a sports field.

Zidane must have realized it was a setup to get him to do precisely the kind of thing he did and thus get him thrown out of the game precisely the way it happened. Zidane should have seen it coming. He should have seen the trap being laid for him and walked away from it.

I wish someone had introduced Zidane to that amazing formula from the Qur’an: Wa idhaa khaatabahumul jaahiloona qaaloo salaamaa! Paraphrase: “When fools provoke you and try to pick a fight with you, just say ‘Peace!’ and walk away.”

Sports are about control and no control is more critical than self-control.

But at the same time, Materazzi should be roundly condemned and held accountable for his egregious behavior.

And having said all that, does it show, even more clearly and convincingly than before, how God Almighty is in control of World Cup football, oops, I mean soccer?

A Parade of Improbabilities

Nowhere is God Almighty’s presence and power more visible than in Zidane’s case. Count the oddities, the improbabilities, and what you will call chance occurrences leading up to this episode, and you will know.

The likelihood of a Muslim – or should I say “Moslem”? – Algerian becoming the cynosure of French football fandom and of the general French population. What are the chances of that happening?

A boy from the poverty-stricken streets of Marseille becoming an international superstar? How likely is that?

And then he returns from his self-imposed retirement, based he says on a mysterious vision he had, to lead France in World Cup 2006? You calculate the odds of that happening.

And then the media and fans around the world laud him as a legend and as one of the all-time greats of international football or soccer – the blessed thing does get played with feet you know?

And then this boy from France’s urban slums – now a mature 34 and hairless – leads France into the Final against a prolific Italy?

And then he scores with a brilliant header to give France the early lead in the Final?

Chance, chance, chance! Is that your only answer to this wide array of facts, all arranged in such unerring pattern of predictability against the heaviest of odds? How sensible is that answer? How smart is that thinking?

Things could not have looked better for Zidane – and for France. Everything was going right for them. And they were both at the top of their game. They had everything the world of football could offer them.

And then, just when everything was the way they wanted it to be, for France and for Zidane, everything suddenly went wrong. The house of improbable odds came crashing on everyone’s head.

Chance? Is that what you will call it? Is that the best you got?

And it all happened in no more than the blinking of an eye.

Wa maa amruna illa ka lamhil basar, as the Qur’an says. Paraphrase: “When we decide to do something, it does not take us more than the blinking of an eye.”

Chance Worship

Chance, is that your explanation for any and all of these facts? Then you are as much a true believer – should I call you a fundamentalist? – as a believer in God, except that you call your God Chance.

And you call upon your god – Chance – to explain any and everything you do not understand, packing your religion of Chance Worship with as much mystery as any devotee of any deity in any religion.

But facts are facts. Read them in the Qur’an. Or read them in newspaper headlines.

For Once, TV Brings Cheer to a Muslim Heart

I am not beating up on Zidane. Far from it.

I watched the game. Yes, it is okay to watch football on television. Islam, football and television are made for each other. All Muslims need to do is to discover the right combination for mixing them.

So, I am not attacking Zidane. In fact, I admired his game in 1998, when he had a lot more hair, and almost single-handedly earned France the World Cup title with two absolutely scintillating goals, and I admired his game in 2006, when he had a lot less hair, and when his skills seemed at times a bit rusty.

And the fact that he was Muslim gave my heart an extra bit of lift. Muslims can use whatever cheerful sights they can find on television, even if the mainstream media fail to make a positive association between Islam and a most successful and popular superstar of by far the most popular game around the world.

Wouldn’t it be hilarious if television voiced over a melodious Adhan rolling in from a distance in the background every time a Muslim superstar scores a goal and the stadium erupts in thunderous applause? And then you superimpose that scene with an image of rows upon rows of Muslims making a Sajdah inside a huge mosque somewhere?

How likely is that to happen in our mainstream media?

But again facts are facts. And the fact is that within the blinking of an eye the man Zidane who was perched on top of the world only seconds ago came tumbling down and broke to pieces, and not all the king’s horses and all the king’s men could put broken, battered humpty-dumpty Zidane back again.

From Bringing Joy to the World to Bringing Peace

May Allah forgive Zidane, and give him the best, and guide him, and make him an instrument of taking his Deen to every home and heart that needs it in the French-speaking world!

Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way for Zidane to channel some of his energies and time – and maybe other resources if he has any?

Zidane’s game brought joy to the billions who watched him over the years. Now he has the opportunity to cash in on that fame and face-and-name recognition and work to bring peace to millions by reaching out to them with the greater message of peace and joy that Islam provides, at a time when the world is most in need of it.

Seeing – and Knowing – Who Is in Charge

The Zidane incident thus threw a damper on my spirits. The World Cup Final suddenly lost its glamour for me and I hung my head in sorrow, shame and remorse.

But when I lifted my head again, I found a different and an even better reason to feel great and wonderful and exuberant. A most beautiful Aayat – passage – of the Qur’an stared me right in the face: Fa’lam annahu laa ilaaha illallah, it said.

“Know!” it said. “Know that there is no one in control of this world besides Allah!”

And as I started to reflect I began to see – and know – how everything about World Cup 2006 bespoke of that one unified fact and of that one overpowering reality in the form of those four words that changed the world: No God but God! Laa Ilaha Illa Allah!

And so long as God Almighty – Allah, Subhaanahu wa Ta’alaa – is in control of this world, Muslims have every reason to celebrate and rejoice. As do all other weak, deprived, oppressed, misunderstood and misrepresented individuals, groups, communities, nations and societies in this world.


(Revised 2010)

© 2006 Syed Husain Pasha, © 2010 Syed Husain Pasha

Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at]
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.

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