"I definitely want Brooklyn to be christened, but I don't know into what religion yet."
Jesus was so rubbish he resorted to playing with girls
Ah, the amateur football leagues: Inelegant mud-strewn battles on the windy wasteland of Hackney Marshes; Bruisers in undersized shorts clattering into knee-high challenges on puny playmakers; Grey-faced over-indulgers puking on the touchline; portly landlords in ill-fitting trench coats barking orders from the dugout: “Put ‘im undahhh!”; and: “’Ow much do you wannit, eh?”; or even; “Break ‘is fakking knee-caps, you caaaant!”
Not for me, this base, clichéd excuse for sporting endeavour. Football is the beautiful game and deserves to be celebrated accordingly.
I’ve always been reluctant to admit this - spent years mumbling evasively when asked which league my team plays in. No more. For I play in the Chiltern Church Football League and am proud to do so.
That’s right. I spend my Saturday afternoons showcasing my dubious skills in the Buckinghamshire area’s premier Christian football league.
And in the decade or so I have been turning out for Dynamo Botley (we are the only team in the league not affiliated to a church - our opponents may be God-fearing, but they clearly have no imagination when it comes to interesting handles), I have remained comfortably agnostic, but also developed a more conciliatory opinion on all things religious.
But there is, I fear, still a stigma attached to religion and I am as guilty as anyone in perpetuating it. Even when we are short of players, I will fail to ask my mates if they fancy a game for fear of their snickering during the short prayer we hold while gathered solemnly round the centre circle.
”Dear Lord, thank you for the chance to play football,” the designated spokesman will aver. “We pray You keep us free from injury and help us play in the right spirit, in a way that is worthy of Your honour. In Jesus’s name, amen.”
Whether the standard of football is genuinely of a calibre befitting the creator of all humanity is a moot point, but there has been an uncanny dearth of ambulance-on-pitch incidents in the 10 years I’ve been playing - indeed, the worst I have ever sustained (touch wood) was a slight hamstring strain in 1997 - so maybe there’s something useful about a little pre-match peace offering to the Big Guy.
So no more embarrassment. I play for the God squad. Deal with it.
But let’s go further. To all the think tanks and high powered fellows who have been developing ways to bring the country together; ways to reconcile the lost Muslim youth with his Christian brother: Scratch outreach programmes and trendy liberal inclusiveness. Has anyone thought of battling it out on a muddy pitch in High Wycombe?
Actually, forget that. Dangerous ground. I’m fairly certain that if Muslims are so vehemently against satirical images of their Prophet, they will not take too kindly to gentle digs at his footballing ability. I have no desire to cause offence - my sarcastic Darwinist bluster has been dulled by 10 years of prayers before kick-off.
So the Muslims are out, but I’m certain the Sikhs would be interested - I’ve seen Bend it Like Beckham.
Thinking about it, the only way to solve this is to stage the Religious World Cup. All faiths select the best eleven available from their followers and the winners get church/temple/mosque bragging rights for the next Millennium. Can’t say fairer than that.
Odds 3-1 (fav)
The favourites for the Cup are an experienced bunch built around the solid defensive partnership of Steve McQueen and Chuck Norris. Discipline is a valid concern for the Christians – Norris has been sent off a record 57 times, usually for roundhouse kicks into the jugulars of his opponents. He also refuses to wear shin pads and invariably spends the half time interval wrestling water buffalo. Much will depend on the contribution of the experienced Langer who has been known to get the yips during big tournaments. The forward line looks short of firepower, but Fox clearly has an impressive pair of strikers (Gag © The Sun, 1984)
Elvis Chuck Norris Steve McQueen R. Kelly
Bernard Langer George W Bush Johnny Cash MC Hammer
Samantha Fox Dan Quayle
Norris: Padless hardman
An eclectic line-up that is probably coming together just at the right time. Bloom looks lightweight at left back, but Marky Mark and Ruby Wax are a formidable central midfield partnership. Marky Mark is practically unstoppable provided he is wearing his lucky pants, though these are often forcibly removed by Wax prior to kick off and worn triumphantly on her head for the duration of the game. Seagal has a tiresome habit of celebrating his goals with clichéd one-liners and a knowing wink to camera, while Lopez’s hefty entourage is extremely useful for bolstering sparse attendances
Joanna Lumley George Lucas Jennifer Lopez Orlando Bloom
Uma Thurman Marky Mark Ruby Wax MCA (Beastie Boys)
Tina Turner Steven Seagal
Buddha: Known to favour 4-4-2
There was scandal during one of the qualifiers when the voice of Bart Simpson Nancy Cartwright let out a trademark “Eat my shorts” during a contretemps with the referee, only for Kirstie Alley to literally oblige leaving a red-raced Cartwright to continue in her pants. Watch out for Cruise and Holmes overlapping well down the right, though their close relationship is likely to end just after the tournament when the publicity machine winds down (or perhaps sooner if Cruise’s locker-room antics hit the headlines).
Manager: L Ron Hubbard
Lisa Marie Presley
Tom Cruise John Travolta Isaac Hayes Nancy Cartwright
Katie Holmes Beck Patrick Swayzee Brandi
Juliet Lewis Kirstie Alley
Tom and Katie: Impressive overlap
Well, the Indian Cricket team contingent have useful sporting pedigree and George Harrison once scored a hat-trick for Bootle under sevens, but this lot surely have to be the rank outsiders. Ghandi’s insistence on patrolling the midfield barefoot seems fraught with danger, and he is perhaps too similar a player to Kingsley who, in the interests of research, shadows the playmaker wherever he goes.
Santana delivers a decent dead ball, but, in open play, has a tendency to keep hold of it and pursue an extended solo juggling routine while other team-mates are better placed, and Shyamalan is forever putting the heebie-jeebies up his defensive colleagues with his fondness for dramatic denouments. During injury-time in a recent fixture, with the score 1-1, he revealed his genitalia just as goalkeeper Tendulkar was attempting a regulation clearance causing the Hindus to lose the game and Shyamalan to be suspended for pre-watershed nudity.
Santana: Solo juggling
Ravi Shankar JD Salinger M Night Shyamalan Kapil Dev
Carlos Santana Ben Kingsley Mahatma Ghandi
Sunil Gavaskar George Harrison
Beck is the free-kick expert and global poster boy, while experienced defender John Travolta’s graceful athleticism and choreographed body-swerves are the envy of dance-floor denizens the world over.
Plenty of natural ability in this line-up, but confidence can be an issue. Many of the players tend to retreat into mumbling, neurotic shells after conceding sloppy goals. For this reason it seems an odd decision to play Woody Allen in goal. He once let a long-range daisy-cutter slip through his hands early on and spent the remainder of the match locked in the dressing room with his therapist causing the Jews to lose 37-0. Mason and Rivers are an explosive
strike duo and hold the post-war record for most mother-in-law gags told during a single ninety-minute fixture (167). Sid James is the undisputed master of frisking female opponents during set-pieces and cackling like a hyena with bronchitis.
James: Frisking in the box
Jerry Seinfeld Stephen Fry Stephen Spielberg David Baddiel
David Suchet Jerry Springer Sid James Barbra Streisand
Jackie Mason Joan Rivers
Certainly no lack of intellect here, but that is not always conducive to flowing football. Sartre is your classic footballing centre-half in the Beckenbauer mould: Good on the ball and capable of lung-bursting runs deep into enemy territory. All too often, though, he is stricken with existential indecision at the critical moment and easily dispossessed. Joyce is a tricky winger but prone to over-elaboration, while in their celebrated German socialist thinker up front, they could well have the best Marx-man in the competition (Gag © The Sun 1867).
Marx: Should really be playing on the left
Manager: Charles Darwin
Ricky Gervais JP Sartre Bertrand Russell Sigmund Freud
Noam Chomsky Gary Numan James Joyce E Hemmingway
Marquis de Sade Karl Marx
if you don’t believe these to be genuine, check out http://www.adherents.com/adh_fam.html and http://www.christianadvice.net/famous_christians.htm